The history of the First Amendment is a history of persecution of those who stood against state “establishment of religion.” The established churches persecuted those true born again believers and others who stood against union of church and state and establishment of religion. In general, those believers who adhered to the apostolic doctrines and stood against union of church and state and its dogmas can be referred to as historic Baptists. Their unrelenting stand resulted in the adoption of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The religion clause of the First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” legislates the Bible principles of separation of church and state and “soul liberty.” This brief article presents the history of the First Amendment in a nutshell. See Endnote for links to more detailed histories.
Christians, since the beginning of the church age, have, generally speaking, always been persecuted to one degree or another. They were persecuted because they obeyed God rather than men (man’s law) when man’s law required them to disobey God’s law. Of course, Americans have yet to suffer more than some inconveniences which, to this point cannot be called persecution; but Christians are, this very day, being severely persecuted in many countries.
Jesus Christ was crucified since He came to lay down his life for the sins of the world. After the crucifixion of Christ, the Jews persecuted the Christians. All the apostles except John, who was persecuted but not killed, were martyrs as were many other Christians. Roman Emperors, off and on, persecuted Christians.
In the early fourth century some of the pastors or bishops went to Rome, at the invitation of Emperor Constantine, and agreed to unite church and state, to make “Christianity” the official religion of the Roman Empire. Not long after that, the official church/state establishment began to viciously persecute dissenters, those labeled to be “heretics” by the establishment. For over a thousand years thereafter, established churches persecuted dissenters.
Augustine early on developed the Catholic theology that was the basis for the brutal torture and murder of at least 50 million people labeled to be “heretics” by Catholic/state establishments. The Protestants—Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, the Church of England etc.—continued the persecutions as they accepted and implemented Augustine’s church state theology.
The persecution by established churches continued in the colonies, mainly under the Puritans in New England and the Anglicans in the South. The Catholic Church had no or insignificant influence in the American colonies and the early Republic since Catholics were few and far between. Had the Puritans and Anglicans had their way there would never have been a First Amendment; church/state establishment of one most powerful church would have been enforced by man’s law in America.
Due to the circumstances of colonization, the persecution in the colonies was severe at times, but not as severe as it had been in the Old World. Forces came together in the colonies which gradually eroded the power of the establishments. Generally speaking, the establishment of one church gave way to the establishment of multiple churches.
A theological warfare went on in the colonies between the dissenters, mainly the Baptists, and the established churches. The Baptists were the primary foes of establishment, of “union of church and state” which, as always, came about through man made law. Men such as Roger Williams, Dr. John Clarke, Isaac Backus, and John Leland fought and wrote extensively against establishment and Protestant theology. Many Baptists and others labeled “heretic” by established churches were persecuted.
As a result of Baptist efforts in the colonies, from the early 1630’s to the adoption of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the First Amendment was adopted. The spiritual warfare in the colonies gradually eroded the concept of the establishment of only one church. By the time the Constitution and First Amendment were adopted, only seven states still had forced “multiple establishment” (more than one established church). The other states had already moved to choice—churches could choose whether to become established under the law of the state.
The continuing efforts of Baptists after that led to Massachusetts being the last state to do away with forced establishment. Since that time, all states, though their constitutions, provide every church a choice: remain under God only or become established, that is, submit to the law of man. In 1954, the federal government passed into law 26 United States Code §§ 501(c)(3) and 508. Since passage of that law, a churches chooses either to remain non-taxable under the First Amendment or to establish under 501(c)(3) and 508 federal tax exempt law.
Some define corporation to mean “a human being with no soul;” of course this statement makes an important point even though it is not literally true. A corporation is not a human being, but it is an “artificial person” (a legal fiction) who acts legally, by, for example, entering into contracts, buying and selling property, suing and being sued. And, as an “artificial person” with no soul, the corporation, whether profit or not for profit, will act accordingly. Human beings with souls in a corporation act within an unnatural, soulless, Godless, state-created fiction; because of the contracts created by their act of incorporation, all disputes can be taken to secular courts where only man’s law and rules will be tolerated; do not try to argue God’s law in that environment. The “church” non-profit corporation will be polluted to some degree, greater or lesser, by the immoral, soulless part of the two-headed monster.
Many secularists understand the nature of incorporation. The statements in a recent article on corporations “Corporations had been viewed as artificial persons for millennia” (click the blue title to go to the article) gives some of the characteristics of incorporation. I urge the interested reader to read that article. The article concerns business corporations; but, although some of what the article says cannot be applied to church incorporation, much of what the article says is applicable to non-profit church corporations. I have explained the intricacies of church incorporation in the Section VI of God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application (PDF, Online Version, Ordering Information) and in Separation of Church and State (PDF, Online Version, Ordering Information). Those resources thoroughly analyze church incorporation for the believer who has an open mind, some degree of intellect, and some Bible knowledge and wisdom about the principles of church, state, and separation of church and state—those requirements eliminate most believers and pastors, especially fundamental Baptist pastors.
Some of the assertions in the article are applicable to non-profit corporations but some are not. The following are applicable to church incorporation (Quotes from the article are in parentheses. The bold material in brackets  below are my notes, comments, and additions.):
“Corporations had been viewed as artificial persons for millennia, the debate over whether they should be afforded the same rights as humans had been raging long before the United States created, or the 14th Amendment was adopted. The degree of permissible government interference in corporate affairs was controversial from the earliest days of the nation.”
“Corporations as legal entities have always been able to perform commercial activities, similar to a person acting as a sole proprietor, such as entering into a contract or owning property. Therefore corporations have always had a ‘legal personality’ for the purposes of conducting business while shielding individual shareholders from personal liability (i.e., protecting personal assets which were not invested in the corporation).”
“Corporate personhood is the legal concept that a corporation may be recognized as an individual in the eyes of the law. This doctrine forms the basis for legal recognition that corporations, as groups of people, may hold and exercise certain rights under the common law and the U.S. Constitution. The doctrine does not grant to corporations all of the rights of citizens.”
“As a matter of interpretation of the word ‘person’ in the Fourteenth Amendment, U.S. courts have extended certain constitutional protections to corporations. Opponents of corporate personhood seek to amend the U.S. Constitution to limit these rights to those provided by state law and state constitutions.”
[I explain how a church, by incorporating, gives up her First Amendment status and places herself to a large degree under the Fourteenth Amendment in the God Betrayed and Separation of Church and State. Non-incorporated churches (and churches which do not become legal entities in some other manner other than incorporation) are protected by the religion clause of the First Amendment, whereas, of course, the First Amendment religion clause gives no protection to a business. The religion clause is a statement of biblical principles (separation of church and state (the establishment clause) and soul liberty or freedom of conscious (the free exercise clause).]
“The basis for allowing corporations to assert protection under the U.S. Constitution is that they are organizations of people, and the people should not be deprived of their constitutional rights when they act collectively. In this view, treating corporations as “persons” is a convenient legal fiction which allows corporations to sue and to be sued, provides a single entity for easier taxation…, simplifies complex transactions which would otherwise involve, in the case of large corporations, thousands of people, and protects the individual rights of the shareholders as well as the right of association.”
“Generally, corporations are not able to claim constitutional protections which would not otherwise be available to persons acting as a group. For example, the Supreme Court has not recognized a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination for a corporation, since the right can be exercised only on an individual basis.”
[A New Testament (First Amendment) church can claim First Amendment religion clause protection whereas a corporation cannot. Since a New Testament church, unlike a corporation, is a not a legal entity, she cannot sue, be sued, or act legally. Churches which become incorporated begin to act like corporate businesses in may ways.]
“Corporations are NOT people.While it is true that what guides them is the human activity of their executives, boards of directors, managers and employees, all the human emotional factors of the people in the corporation pass through a “filter” created by the two basic rules: (a) Maximize profit (b) Do whatever is necessary to continue the business.”(Rule a should be modified when it conflicts with rule b).”
[In a church corporation, the officers of the corporation operate an entity whose organization, goals, structure, morality, piety, and officers are mandated by state law in direct contradiction to the organization, goals, structure, morality, piety, and officers given by God’s Holy Bible in the New Testament.]
“It is a slippery road to give personal rights to corporations. The corporation is an amoral entity, i.e., not governed by human moral values. It lacks guilt for what it does, or empathy for those it harms. What’s worse, this “sociopathic” entity is given the rights of a human being, but not similar responsibilities. A corporation is particularly dangerous because of its great concentration of money, power, and political influence–which it uses freely to reach its goals.”
[These realities are clearly seen in the Catholic “church” (not incorporated), and also in incorporated Fundamental Baptist Churches. A prime example of the latter is First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. See the article “Jack Schaap, First Baptist of Hammond, Heresy and Apostasy.” One can also do a google search to see the reactions of the church lawyer (David Gibbs) and the church members of First Baptist of Hammond for more confirmation. This scenario has played out on a smaller scale in many other Fundamental Baptist Churches, including the offspring, followers, and worshipers of First Baptist of Hammond and her pastors.]
Other parts of the article (the parts dealing with rights of corporations to make political expenditures under the First Amendment free speech clause, the role corporate money plays and should play in democratic politics, the dangers of giving too much power to corporations to allow corporations to participate directly on political campaigns as a threat to democracy) apply to some degree to church corporations. All one has to do is look at the operations of, for example, the average “fundamental church and her pastor, the average seminary or Bible college and what they teach, and the words and activities of the lawyers involved with those institutions to see the application of those matters. That is all the author will say about that in this brief article.
Fundamental Baptist tradition perceives the truth to be that churches are to incorporate and get 28 U.S.C. Section 501(c)(3) status. At the same time, that tradition preaches that the Bible is to be the sole source of truth. The reality is that the biblical doctrines of church, state, and separation of church and state disprove the first mentioned Baptist tradition. But after all, it is the perception of the truth, not the truth, that matters.
In the book God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application (“God Betrayed”) as well as in other books and writings, I originally taught that a New Testament church could depend upon Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) § 508 (“508”) for her non-taxable status (See Endnote 1for links to the two free versions of God Betrayed or for ordering information should you desire a softback copy as well as information on other books and resources by Jerald Finney.). I was wrong. After years of study, I have learned that a New Testament church cannot depend upon 508 for her non-taxable status because, in so doing, the church gives up her New Testament and First Amendment status. However, I am more certain than ever of the correctness of my original biblically based conclusions that a church grieves the Lord when they intentionally, knowingly, recklessly, or negligently attain church corporate and/or 501(c)(3) status or legal entity status (See Endnote 1) of any kind. I ask those who have followed my teachings to forgive me for misleading them concerning church 508 status. This brief article explains church 508 status and its effect.
A New Testament Church is also a First Amendment Church. This is because the First Amendment is a law which corresponds with biblical principles to include freedom of religion and conscience (separation of church and state), freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of association. The First Amendment is a part of the second highest law of the land, the United States Constitution. The highest law of every nation is God’s law, whether a nation recognizes it or not. The Lord, for the time being, allows individuals, families, churches, and nations free will to honor His precepts or not. The choices determine the ultimate consequences. Click here to listen to Jerald Finney’s lecture “Hierarchy of Law” (CD of speech at Old Paths Baptist Church in Fayetville, TN. given on the Sunday the church formally adopted the Declaration of Trust). The following article “First Amendment Protection of New Testament Churches/Federal Laws Protecting State Churches (Religious Organizations” also explains hierarchy of law.
The First Amendment says:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Notice especially that the First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” [Emphahsis mine.]
Are not those words very clear? No law means “no law.” What is IRC § 508? It, likeIRC 501(c)(3), is a law made by Congress and signed by the President. According to the clear meaning of the First Amendment, IRC § 508 andIRC 501(c)(3) are, when applied to churches, laws “respecting an establishment of religion and preventing the free exercise thereof.”
Why would a church take themselves from First Amendment status and protection to either IRC § 508 orIRC § 501(c)(3)? One reason is lack of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. When a church claims either 508 or 501(c)(3) status, she has rejected her First Amendment non-taxable status and freely accepted the offer of the federal government to enter into an agreement (contract) for tax exempt status as provided by a law. (SeeGod Betrayedfor teaching which explains this)
Let me repeat: First Amendment churches under God are non-taxable. 501(c)(3) and 508 religious organizations are tax exempt. IRC § 508 (the codification of Public Law 91-172 ratified in 1969) provides in relevant part:
“§ 508. Special rules with respect to section 501(c)(3) organizations. “(a) New organizations must notify secretary that they are applying for recognition of section 501(c)(3) status. “(c) Exceptions. “(1) Mandatory exceptions. Subsections (a) and (b) shall not apply to— “(A) churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches” (26 U.S.C. § 508). [Emphasis mine.]
§ 508(a),(c) says churches are excepted from obtaining IRC § 501(c)(3) tax exempt status (See Endnote 2for links to articles which fully explain church IRC § 501(c)(3)) status). 508 churches are an exception to the civil government requirement that certain organizations file for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.
A church should rely on the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, not on508 status for three reasons. First, the First Amendment is a statement of the biblical principle of separation of church and state (See, for a short explanation with links to more in depth studies, Is Separation of Church and State Found in the Constitution?). When a church relies on the First Amendment, they are relying on a biblical principle. Should the biblical principle be abused or ignored by the civil government, so be it—a church should then rely and act only on the biblical principle. Endnote 3.
Second, to rely on 508 contradicts the First Amendment. To repeat, the First Amendment religion clause states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Obviously, 508 is a law made by Congress which regards an establishment of religion; 508 also prevents the free exercise of religion because a church which claims 508 status thereby submits themselves to some control by the federal government in that the church becomes subject to the rules that come with IRC 501(c)(3) status. 508 does not state that the First Amendment forbids Congress from making any law in violation of the First Amendment; and that, therefore, a church is non-taxable. 508 is a law made by Congress which states that Congress, by law, is declaring an exemption for churches. Thus, by a clear reading of the First Amendment, 508is clearly unconstitutional. Most churches and pastors could care less about this technicality.
The correct position which is held by the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) is that a church has submitted herself to IRC § 501(c)(3) regulation and ignored her First Amendment status by relying on 508 (a law passed by Congress) instead of the First Amendment. The IRS makes this position clear. Page 3 of IRS Publication 1828 states that “churches that meet the requirements of § 501(c)(3) are automatically considered tax exempt and are not required to apply for and obtain recognition of tax-exempt status from the IRS” [Bold red emphasis mine]. The IRS repeats this on page 24 of IRS Publication 557, “Tax –Exempt Status for Your Organization.” Under Organizations Not Required To File Form 1023 churches are listed. The following sentence is included: “These organizations are exempt automatically if they meet the requirements of section 501(c)(3).” [Bold red emphasis mine.]
One should also understand that the New Testament (First Amendment) church will not be involved with the IRS for several reasons: the church claims no 501(c)(3) or 508 status; is not a legal entity such as a corporation aggregate or sole, an unincorporated association, or a charitable trust; is not a business; has no income; has no employees or staff; has no constitution or by-laws; and, no matter what the particular civil government does, honors the biblical principle of separation of church and state which is reflected in the First Amendment in America.
The New Testament (First Amendment) church who loves the Lord will be prepared for the eventuality that the Internal Revenue Service, some other Federal agency, the President (recent presidential actions and orders as well as the actions of many prior presidents demonstrate what a tyrannical president can and will do), and/or the Supreme Court of the United States may someday misinterpret and apply the First Amendment, and a New Testament church who loves the Lord and is committed to pleasing Him will remain submitted to the higher authority. God Betrayed (see above for free links to the book) explains all this and also shows how churches are operating in America without becoming legal entities such as incorporated 501(c)(3) religious organizations thereby retaining their First Amendment and biblical status. For specifics on how to organize a church under the Bible principle of separation of church and state, one can also go to: ABIBLETRUST.COM.
Third, a New Testament church (a church organized according to the principles of the New Testament), among other things, receives no income, is not a 501(c)(3) or 508 religious organization, has no constitution or by-laws, has no employees or staff, and runs no businesses (daycare, “Christian” schools, “Bible” colleges, seminaries, cafes, etc.). Church members of a New Testament Church give their tithes and offerings to God, not to a religious organization, for use in ways consistent with New Testament teaching. All monies given to God are disbursed in accordance to the guidelines of the New Testament, and no money is left over. Let us use our common sense, if not our biblical sense: Even a business which makes no profit pays no taxes. A church which has no income cannot be taxed. A church which does have net income should be taxed since (1) she is operating as a business and not as a New Testament church; and (2) (if she is a legal entity such as a non-profit corporation (includes corporation sole – see Critique of “Church Freedom and the Corporation Sole” Website), or unincorporated association she is set up as a non-profit religious organization and therefore violates not only biblical principles for the organization of a church but also her non-profit agreements with the state of incorporation by making a profit.
If a church does not apply for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status or claim 508 tax exempt status, and if she is organized as a New Testament church, according to the First Amendment which agrees with the biblical principle of separation of church and state, the non-taxable status of that church must be honored. No matter what the civil government claims, that church cannot be taxed anyway because she has no income; she gives her tithes, offerings, and gifts to God, not to a government created religious organization. Said another way, the church (the members) give to God, not to the church, inc.
Always keep in mind matters which I cover in detail in other writings and teachings: a church who incorporates (non-profit corporation or corporation sole), or becomes a charitable trust, unincorporated association or some other type legal entity has voluntarily given up her exclusive First Amendment status in favor of partial and substantial Fourteenth Amendment status since she has become a legal entity.
There are other ways a church may violate biblical principles concerning the doctrine of the church thereby becoming some type church other than a New Testament church. Understanding these matters requires a believer to grow in knowledge, understanding, and wisdom through dedicated Bible study.
If a church successfully applies for 501(c)(3) status or claims 508 exempt status, the government is granted some jurisdiction over the church since the civil government now declares and grants an exemption.
Please, God’s dear churches, do not lose your New Testament status by becoming a legal entity of any kind. Please learn to love the Lord as he loves you and gave Himself for you;
“That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word. That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5.25-27).
Please, dear believer, learn to think Biblicly (spiritually), not practically from the human perspective (fleshly). Please become more Christian than American, more heavenly than earthly. God made clear that Christ in heaven is to be the only authority (power or head) “over all things to” His churches. Put another way, a church, the body whose feet walk and work on earth, is to be connected to only one head, Christ in heaven. A church with two heads (authorities or powers) is a monstrosity.
“And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Ep. 1.19-23).
“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ep. 2.19-23).
“And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Col. 1.18).
From the above verses, and many more that could be quoted, one sees that God desires his churches to be spiritual entities or bodies (See also, e.g., Ep. 4 and the whole book of Ep., Col., and 1 Co. 12 for more on churches as spiritual bodies) connected to their only God ordained Head, the Lord Jesus Christ in heaven, while walking as spiritual entities only here on the earth. Churches are to be “builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit,” not built together as a corporate 501(c)(3) or 508 organization according to man’s earthly, legal laws.
Please repent and turn from the deceits of the god of this world to the precepts of God. Please prepare for the day when believers and churches will have to choose either to lay it all down for God and for eternal reward or to lay it all up for Satan for a perceived earthly security. That day has not yet arrived for believers and churches in America, but that day appears to be fast approaching.
1. For the definition of and more information on “legal entity” see the index of God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State:The Biblical Principles and the American Applicationwhich is available free in PDF, in online form (no index), or which may be ordered by clicking “Order information for books by Jerald Finney.”
All books, except An Abridged History of the First Amendment, by Jerald Finney are available free in both PDF and online form. One may go to Order information for books by Jerald Finney should he desire to order any of the books which are in print.
A biblical and historical Baptist principle is that God desires separation of church and state, not separation of God and church or separation of God and state. Study Jerald Finney’s writings and/or audio teachings to discover the truth about and how to apply the principle. Finney’s teachings prove that the revisionist view of Separation of Church and State accepted without examination by most American “Christians” is false and has done great damage to the cause of Christ and to America.
“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn” (Pr. 29.2). “Evil men understand not judgment: but they that seek the LORD understand all things” (Pr. 28.5). “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Ps. 9.17).
“The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach” (Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 at 18, 91 L. Ed. 711, 67 S. Ct. 504, 168 A.L.R. 1392 (1947), reh’g denied 330 U.S. 855, 91 L. Ed. 1297, 67 S. Ct. 962, p. 18).
With Everson, “establishment of religion” became something entirely different from what it had been to that point. Eventually, the new rationale of the Court in Everson, all taken together, while honoring the historical First Amendment and biblical principle of separation of church and state, would lead to the removal, or the attempt to remove, any vestige of God from civil government affairs. Even when the Court would allow the mention of God, it was with the understanding that God was only historical and of no significance. God, the Ruler of the universe, the Ultimate Lawmaker, and the Judge of the Supreme Court of the universe, gave United States Supreme Court Justices freedom to rebel, albeit not without grave consequences.
Chapter 1 Introduction to “Religion Clause Jurisprudence”
Because of failure to understand, believe, and apply God’s principles, the “religious” jurisprudence in the United States has been on a slippery downhill slope of confusion and destruction since the ratification of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. At first the slope was nonexistent or slight, but starting in the mid-twentieth century the grade increased. The United States Supreme Court added new meaning to “separation of church and state,” meaning which was used to remove all vestiges of God from public life and public view.
While upholding the original meaning of the First Amendment religion clause, the Supreme Court has supplemented the original meaning of that clause. The original meaning of the religion clause was to protect the church from state regulation and the state from church regulation.
“The constitutional inhibition of legislation on the subject of religion has a double aspect. On the one hand it forestalls compulsion by law of the acceptance of any creed or the practice of any form of worship…. On the other hand, it safeguards the free exercise of the chosen form of religion…. The interrelation of the ‘establishment’ and ‘free exercise’ clauses [according to the United States Supreme Court] has been well summarized as follows: ‘The structure of our government has, for the preservation of civil liberty, rescued the temporal institutions from religious interference. On the other hand, it has secured religious liberty from the invasion of the civil authority’” (Donald T. Kramer, J.D. Annotation: Supreme Court Cases Involving Establishment and Freedom of Religion Clauses of Federal Constitution, 37 L. Ed. 2d 1147 § 2 citing Everson).
The First Amendment was meant to prevent “the establishment of a religion” and to “protect the free exercise thereof.” In other words, religion, including churches, according to the First Amendment religion clause, are to work under, hand and hand with, or over the state. The Court still upholds the “high and impregnable” wall between church and state. A wall separates two sides each from the other. This concept of separation of church and state is the principle God established for Gentile nations.
However, the twentieth century Court has added an additional aspect to the First Amendment religion clause. The Supreme Court, while proclaiming that the First Amendment guarantee of biblical separation of church and state is still in effect, also supplemented the religion clause to require separation of God and state.
History is clear about the fact that the God of the Bible was honored by the people, and especially the great majority of leaders, of America at the time of the founding of the nation and for sometime thereafter (See, e.g., Jerald Finney, God Betrayed/Separation of Church and State: The Biblical Principles and the American Application (Austin, TX: Kerygma Publishing Co., 2008), Section V and the many books cited therein). The people of America knew that the God of the Bible was the only true God.
The nineteenth century Supreme Court held a different view from the modern Court. The nineteenth century Court looked to historical facts to support its contention that this was a Christian nation. Although the Constitution established a nation upon a blend of enligntenment and biblical principles, the nineteenth century court selected partial facts without understanding and incorrectly contended that America was a “Christian” nation (Rector, Etc., of Holy Trinity Church v. United States, 143 U.S. 457, 12 S. Ct. 511 (1892)). When the unregenerate dominated the Court in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the Court looked to an incomplete version of historical facts and to a new twist on the First Amendment to remove God from all public affairs and to effectively declare that this is not a Christian nation. At the same time, the Court proclaimed that the original meaning of the First Amendment religion clause is still in effect.
The Supreme Court did two things which ultimately resulted in the assurance that God and His principles would not in any way be over the United States or any state therein. First, it gradually deconstructed the intent of the Fourteenth Amendment to the point where the Court began to apply the First Amendment to state, county, and city governments.
Second, the Supreme Court redefined separation of church and state in such a way that allowed the Court to begin to separate God and state on the national, state, county, and city government levels. The twentieth century Court operated in a nation where the state got into areas where it had no God-given and/or Constitutional jurisdiction—education of children, welfare, retirement (social security), childcare, income taxation, etc. In this new environment, the Court redefined “separation of church and state” in such a way that God and state were separated, thereby ensuring the degradation of the nation into gross immorality on a national scale and the ultimate judgment of God upon the nation. God was excluded from the public life of the nation and a pluralistic nation resulted. For the Supreme Court, the term “religion” became a way to categorize spiritual matters in any way connected to “church,” to “God,” or to “a god.” Even should the Court permit a vestige of God to remain, such permission was granted in a pejorative manner which dishonored God. An example is recent Ten Commandments jurisprudence which is discussed in the articles which follow in this section.
According to the modern Supreme Court, the civil government is to remain neutral as to “religion.” “The First Amendment reflects the philosophy that church and state should be separated. Yet it neither says nor requires that in every conceivable respect there must be a total separation of church and state. Thus, while laws giving direct aid to religion are not permitted, laws which incidentally benefit religion are not, for that reason alone, invalid…. All that is required is that the government stand neutral between one religion and another, and between religion and nonbelief, and not become excessively entangled in the affairs of religion…” (Kramer, § 2).
This neutrality toward “religion,” as defined and applied by the Court, was interpreted to be not only neutrality toward religion, but also hostility toward God. God, His authority, and His principles were deemed inapplicable to the affairs of the civil government. The Court made the decision for the nation: “God, you are out. You are at best equal to nonbelief and to the gods of all other ‘religions.’” Too bad for the nation that the nation is not the sovereign. God is the Sovereign who has allowed the nation to make its temporary and self-destructive choice.
At the same time, the original meaning of the religion clause is generally upheld by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court still declares that the original meaning of the First Amendment, forbidding the state to interfere in the affairs of a church and vice-versa, is still in effect. The Court still declares the “wall of separation between church and state” to be “high and impregnable.” The original intent of the First Amendment establishment clause—that the state not be over the church nor the church over the state and that people be free to exercise their religious beliefs (as long as those beliefs do not run afoul of criminal law)—has consistently been proclaimed by the Supreme Court. See, The History of the First Amendment.
As is explained in Section VI of God Betrayed, the position of the Supreme Court which has upheld the separation of church and state has been skirted by the legislative and executive branches through laws which have lured most churches to place themselves under the civil government through legal entity status such as incorporation and 501(c)(3) and by presidential “faith based initiatives.” As far as the author has been able to ascertain, the courts have never been asked to rule on the constitutionality of such legislation and presidential actions.
Certainly many “Christian” and all secular authors have no knowledge or understanding of the Word of God. Therefore, their arguments are foolish. Many Christians and secularists correctly point out that the terms “separation of church and state,” “church,” “state,” and “separation” do not appear in the Constitution (See Leo Pfeffer, Church, State, and Freedom (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1953), p. 118 citing Edwin S. Corwin, Constitution of Powers in a Secular State, (Charlottesville, Virginia: Michie Co., 1951), p. 98). Christians use that fact to argue that church and state should work together, or that the church should be involved with the state. Admittedly, individual Christians, not churches, should, if God so directs, become involved in the civil government; and both New Testament churches and Christians should communicate their political beliefs including who to vote for based upon biblical standards applied to the beliefs of the candidates. Nonetheless, this is a poor argument for Christians to use because God wants separation of church and state in Gentile nations (See The Biblical Doctrine of Separation of Church and State) and because the Constitution provided for separation of church and state. The correct argument for the Christian is that the people and the leaders should place the Sovereign, that is, God over the state in the manner already explained in these studies and that God desires that every man have the religious liberty as guaranteed by the First Amendment which separates church and state.
Secularist arguments in support of a complete removal of God from all civil governmental affairs are equally invalid. For example, Leo Pfeffer, a constitutional scholar, asserted that “it was inevitable that some convenient term [‘separation of church and state’] should come into existence to verbalize a principle so clearly and widely held by the American people.” I question whether the overwhelming majority of Americans clearly and widely can or could intelligently discuss the subject now or when Pfeffer wrote. In support of this argument, he asked, “Who would deny that ‘religious liberty’ is a constitutional principle [even though] that phrase is not in the Constitution” (Pfeffer, p. 119)? His writings and advocacy as a lawyer, including his advocacy before the Supreme Court, make clear that his idea of religious liberty—to remove God from state affairs—was entirely different from the biblical principle. He had absolutely no spiritual understanding. He was used by the god of this world to advocate for a “Godless” civil government.
Thus, one reason for America’s rapid slide downhill has been the lack of knowledge and understanding of biblical principles—this can be related to the fact that the Constitution itself was a blend of biblical and enlightenment principles. Even though some biblical principles were inherent in the structure of the Constitution and the First Amendment provided for religious liberty and separation of church and state, the Constitution did not declare that the goal of the nation was the glory of God. The Constitution did not declare that God, and specifically the Lord Jesus Christ, was Sovereign over the nation. The nation was not, according to its highest statement of law, required to turn to the principles of the Bible in deciding its questions of law, to recognize God in its official prayers and organic utterances, or to point out that the God of the Bible, the Lord Jesus Christ, was the Sovereign over all institutions including individual, family, nation, and church. Since the body of the Constitution made no mention of God, and since certain enlightenment principles were embodied into the Constitution, the document itself is of little help to those who support biblical principles and argue that this nation as founded was a “Christian” nation, or a nation under God. This can be discerned from numerous Supreme Court opinions as exemplified infra in this section.
The Constitution, while separating church and state, also failed to declare that God was to be over the state. In the early history of the new nation, many referred to the need for religion, or even “God” to be involved in the state. The New York Methodist church in 1808 promoted the spread of the Gospel over the entire earth, and fought humanism with Scriptural truth and holy living. Christians used their vote to elect Christians who would uphold their Christian ideas.
“The Rev. John Mason preached that ‘the principles of the gospel are to regulate [people’s] political as well as their other conduct.’ He scoffed at the idea that ‘religion has nothing to do with politics!’ asking rhetorically, ‘Where did you learn this maxim?’ To the contrary, he offered, ‘the Bible is full of directions for your behavior as citizens,’ citing in example Col. 3:17 ‘And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, to do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.’ Other New York ministers expressed similar sentiments to their congregations, representing civil government as a ‘subsidiary’ to God’s grand design of preparing saints for the future and ‘the civil magistrate as God’s officer.’ … “[Thomas Jefferson stated ‘The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbors to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pockets, nor breaks my leg.’]. Mason wrote: ‘This is nothing less than representing civil society as founded in Atheism. For there can be no religion without God. And if it does me or my neighbor no injury, to subvert the very foundation of religion, by denying the being of God, then religion is not one of the constituent principles of society, and consequently society is perfect without it’” (Mark Douglas McGarvie, One Nation Under Law: America’s Early National Struggles to Separate Church and State (DeKalb, Illinois: Northern Illinois University Press, 2005), pp. 124-125).
It is disputed whether Jefferson advocated public abstention in matters of religion, but many clergymen felt that he was atheistic.
“Public abstention amounted to the denial of a single religious truth; and once a government rejects the idea of one religious truth, it is rendered unable to act upon any religious doctrine in constricting the laws, values, and policy aims of that society. But the idea that any God could himself, or herself or itself, be relativistic is absurd—how can any true living God accept all suggestions of his, her, or its own existence as merely speculative or one of many unprovable theories? If God could not accept religious relativism, how could America? The advocacy of religious relativism is logically inconsistent with the acceptance of any true, living God. Accordingly, the ministers insisted that when a government assumed such a position, it rejected the existence of God as well as God’s role in governing” (Ibid.).
Generally speaking, the people of the United States, against an increasing current of liberalism, have determined the course of the nation. As long as the nation had a predominantly Christian population, God was honored to a degree in the public life of the nation, although Christian values, even in the early life of the new nation, were gradually being undermined by non-Christian principles in the legal arena. America, with all its faults, to an extent proceeded “under God” for over a hundred and fifty years even though the nation’s highest law, the Constitution, had, on its face, been about “the happiness of man” and not the “glory of God” from the beginning—this fact is apparent from a facial reading of the document as well as from a study of history before, during, and after ratification.
Great revivals occurred at the time the Constitution was ratified and for some time thereafter, and multitudes were saved. As a result, the nation was saturated with Christians, and the integrity of the nation was thereby preserved to an extent. On the other hand, the legal system began to apply enlightenment principles to redefine marriage, the family, the church, criminal law, and the law in general. Although an examination of this movement is beyond the scope of this book, it is important to have at least a rudimentary understanding of the context in which future First Amendment jurisprudence unfolded.
Because the population was predominantly Christian, or at least honored the Bible and God to an extent, American civil government, to a great degree, initially operated under God. Many Supreme Court justices and the majority of Americans in the nineteenth century were either Christian or at least had a reverence for the Bible and Christianity. In 1892, the Court declared that this nation would go by the principles of Christianity, not by the principles of other religions which the Court called imposters of the true religion (Rector, Etc., of Holy Trinity Church v. United States). God was honored by some, if not most, civil government organizations and officials in their official public proclamations, speeches, and prayers. Official prayers were given in Jesus’ name. God was recognized by leaders and judges who acknowledged that only the God of the Bible could bring blessings and curses to the nation. Among the myriad examples is the Thanksgiving Day Proclamation of President George Washington:
“Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly implore his protection and favor, and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to ‘recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanks-giving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
“Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November, next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His [many blessings before becoming a nation, during the late war, etc.]….
“And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions…” (Norman Cousins, In God We Trust (Kingsport, Tennessee: Kingsport Press, Inc., 1958), pp. 71-72; quoted only in part. Notice that even President Washington included the purpose of the nation as being the “safety and happiness” of the people.). [Emphasis mine to show enlightenment influence.]
Things have changed. Although the First Amendment to the Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of religion or preventing the free exercise thereof,” the civil government, contrary to the mandate of that amendment, through laws passed by Congress and approved by the President, controls and even defines the corporate 501(c)(3) religious organization and undermines such organizations with the promotion and support of most and participation by some “Christians.”
The Supreme Court has not had to attack the churches to subjugate them to the civil government. Most churches have taken themselves from under the jurisdiction of God and placed themselves under the civil government through incorporation and Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) § 501(c)(3) status. Churches have done this even though the federal government acknowledges that churches are different from “religious organizations” and that the civil government has no requirement for a church to be under the state—a church can only voluntarily place itself under the state. Satan would much prefer that churches come to him willingly. Regrettably, most Christians are members of a corporate 501(c)(3) church (This aspect of civil government control of churches is covered in Section VI of God Betrayed which is reproduced on this blog.). Many Christians in incorporated 501(c)(3) religious organizations are discovering the truth, but have no knowledge about how to disentangle their churches from the state; others simply ignore the issue and continue in their polluted state.
Why have some “Christians,” as well as the Supreme Court and other branches of government, not recognized that a church is to be entirely under God and that the civil government has limited jurisdiction under God? The answers to these questions are very simple: Some “Christians” and Supreme Court justices and other civil government leaders and officials have no understanding of biblical principles or of the history of their nation concerning government (which includes the all-powerful government of God, self-government, family government, civil government, and church government), church, separation of church and state, and the proper relationship between God and state and God and His churches. They simply do not understand that God is the Sovereign over all, that God gives all civil governments the choice of whether to recognize His sovereignty and operate under His rules, and the consequences of the choices made. They have been deceived by false secular and “Christian” teaching in those areas. As a result, even “Christians” advance secular principles and arguments rather than God-honoring biblical principles and arguments.
Since man does not gravitate towards God’s principles, but rather toward Satan’s principles, the Christian population of the nation decreased steadily and is now a very small remnant. A Christian population honored God individually and as a nation, to a degree, regardless of the wording of the Constitution. A Christian population applied a more biblical interpretation and understanding of the First Amendment. A non-Christian population seeks the lowest level. America is rapidly sinking to that level and is now near rock bottom.
Much of the writing concerning the First Amendment is confusing and certainly untrue since the understanding of the history of the amendment has been revised by both secular and Christian writers. Generally, either nothing is said about, or lies and revisions are dissiminated about, the power of God, His principles, and the warfare between those principles and the false versions of those principles in the theologies of many “churches” and denominations and in the revised histories of colonial America and the United States. When God and His principles are left out, revised, and/or lied about in the discussion of anything (as is almost always the case), the path is only downward toward judgment. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding” (Pr. 9.10). “[T]he foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Co. 1.25). “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Co. 2.14). “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain” (1 Co. 3.19-20).
Churches under Christ Ministry is under the authority of Charity Baptist Tabernacle of Amarillo, Texas, Benjamin Hickam Pastor. Jerald Finney, a Christian Lawyer and member of Charity Baptist Tabernacle explains how a church in America can remain under the Lord Jesus Christ and Him only. "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church" (Ephesians 1.22).