Tag Archives: Rector Etc. of Holy Trinity Church v. United States

The 19th Century Supreme Court Interpretation of “Separation of Church and State”

Jerald Finney
Copyright © January 14, 2012


Click here to go to links to all Chapters in Section V.


Note. This is a modified edition of Section V, Chapter 2 of God Betrayed. The author makes some controversial statements regarding not only civil court jurisprudence but also some biblical principles. An honest study of the Word of God brought him to his conclusions. He invites anyone to show him where he is wrong as to his biblical pronouncements. If anyone can do so, then he will publicly repent and recant. Likewise, if anyone finds that their presuppositions were wrong, he invites them to repent and recant. How can anyone ever hope to get his individual, family, church, and state government correct without being willing to embrace and promote new light when it comes his way?


The 19th Century Supreme Court Interpretation of “Separation of Church and State”

The religion clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or preventing the free exercise thereof.” What did the authors of this clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States mean? What was meant by “religion” and “the free exercise of religion” or “freedom of religion?” Was the First Amendment intended to create “separation of church and state?” If so, what was meant by “separation of church and state?” Many Christians have addressed this issue, and most of their debating points have been off base, as have the arguments of secularists. This author traced the history of the First Amendment in Section IV of God Betrayed which is reproduced on this website. Historically, the purpose of the First Amendment was to separate church and state (keep the federal government out of church and churches out of civil government—i.e., the meaning was that the church was not to work under, hand and hand with, or over the federal government.).

The Supreme Court, in the nineteenth century, started out reasonably – not historically or biblically – well on this issue; but in the mid-twentieth century, although not yet removing the original meaning of the First Amendment separation of church and state, the Court moved into another area adding a completely perverted twist to the meaning of “separation of church and state,” thereby turning the First Amendment religious clause into a tool that would be used to remove God from any state activity.

The nineteenth Century Court could have done much better had it gone directly to a complete and non-revised history of relevant facts and to the Bible and not to the views of the “Christian” world for its guidelines. In the nineteenth century, the Supreme Court defined “religion,” “the free exercise of religion,” “freedom of religion,” and “separation of church and state” much differently than does our modern Supreme Court. In 1879, the Court wrote in its opinion in Reynolds v. United States:

“The word ‘religion’ is not defined in the constitution. We must go elsewhere, therefore, to ascertain its meaning, and nowhere more appropriately, we think, than to the history of the times in the midst of which the [First Amendment to the United States Constitution] was adopted. The precise point of inquiry is, what is the religious freedom which has been guaranteed” (Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145, 162 (1879))? (Bracketed material added by author.].

According to the Court, “religion” meant “Christianity” and “freedom of religion” meant freedom to practice the one true religion, “Christianity,” or any imposter of the true religion as long as such practice did not violate or conflict with the moral or social laws of Christianity.

The Reynolds Court referred, as did the mid-twentieth century Court (See Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1, 67 S. Ct. 504, 91 L. Ed. 711, 1947 U.S. LEXIS 2959; 168 A.L.R. 1392 (1947)), to an obscure letter written by Thomas Jefferson. Regarding the First Amendment religion clause:

“Mr. Jefferson afterwards, in reply to an address to him by a committee of the Danbury Baptist Association (8 id. 113), took occasion to say: ‘Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions,—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 and state. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore man to all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.’ Coming as this does from an acknowledged leader of the advocates of the measure, it may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the amendment thus secured. Congress was deprived of all legislative power over mere opinion, but was left free to reach actions which were in violation of social duties or subversive of good order” (Reynolds, 98 U.S. at 164).

According to Jefferson, the laws of government could reach actions, but not opinions. What actions could government reach? He desired that those laws should not reach, but rather should restore, the natural rights of man. And “[man] has no natural right in opposition to his social duties” (Ibid.)?

What is the origin of man’s “natural rights” and his “social duties” which cannot oppose one another? Jefferson signed the Declaration of Independence which stated, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness…. We, therefore, [appeal] to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions” (The Declaration of Independence para. 2, 32 (U.S. 1776)).  The Declaration referred to “the separate but equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitles them” (Ibid., para. 1).  Thus, according to Jefferson and the other signers of the Declaration of Independence, man’s “natural rights” come from God.

What defined man’s social duties? What was to tell us the meaning of good order? What actions violated social duties and subverted good order? From Reynolds one can certainly conclude that the Mormon religion, the ways of the Asiatic people, and the ways of the African people were not to be the guide America (98 U.S. at 164). Instead, social duties and good order were to be defined by looking at the laws of the northern and western nations of Europe, especially England (Ibid., pp. 164-65). In England the ecclesiastical (church) courts punished polygamy, and presided over testamentary causes and the settlement of the estates of deceased persons (Ibid., p. 165). Marriage was declared to be a “sacred obligation,” and a “civil contract … regulated by law” (Ibid. This last statement of the Court concerning marriage was flawed. Contract law is based upon enlightenment, not biblical, principles. Marriage as defined in the Bible is a covenant between God, man, and woman. Marriage, according to Enlightenment thought, is a contract between two equal people and the state; the state, not God, is alleged to be the controlling party to marriage. The contract clause—Article 1, Section 10 of the United States Constitution—was ultimately used to reconstruct marital law, family law, criminal law, and other areas of the law including relationship of church and state according to enlightenment principles of contract law. See Section VI of God Betrayed which is published in this blog in edited form.).

What did Jefferson mean by “separation between church and state?” The Reynolds Court stated:

“’[T]o suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion, and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty. [I]t is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt acts against peace and good order.’ In these two sentences is found the true distinction between what belongs to the church and what to the state” (Ibid., p. 163). [Emphasis mine.]

The Court did not correctly articulate what belongs to a church and what to the state. Sections I through IV of God Betrayed explain the jurisdictions of church and state according to the Word of God. Nonetheless, the court is correct in asserting that church and state have different jurisdictions.

The Court went on to further clarify the intended meaning of the phrase by explaining that “the scope and effect of the [First Amendment religion clause] was to deprive Congress of all legislative power over mere opinion, while leaving Congress free to reach actions which were in violation of social duties or subversive of good order” (Ibid., p. 164). The Court referred to Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist Association as quoted above. They could have reinforced this with the Virginia Act for Religious Liberty, drafted by Jefferson and made law in Virginia in 1786 (quoted on pages 281-282 of God Betrayed which is reproduced on this website in the chapter entitled “To Virginia”), with James Madison’s famous “Memorial and Remonstrance” (quoted on pages 278-279 of God Betrayed and reproduced on this website in the chapter entitled “To Virginia”), and with other historical facts.

Reynolds held that laws criminalizing polygamy did not violate the First Amendment even though the offender practiced polygamy because of his religious beliefs (Ibid.).  The Court said that the act of polygamy violated social duties and subverted good order (Ibid., pp. 164-167). True enough, but still not proper authority to criminalize polygamy, since the Bible made clear that God intends marriage to be under Him only, not under the state.

Mr. Justice Field, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, more clearly explained why, according to the Court, bigamy and polygamy are actions which violate social duties and subvert good order and why laws against bigamy and polygamy are constitutional:

“Bigamy and polygamy are crimes by the laws of all civilized and Christian countries. They are crimes by the laws of the United States, and they are crimes by the laws of Idaho. They tend to destroy the purity of the marriage relation, to disturb the peace of families, to degrade woman and to debase man. Few crimes are more pernicious to the best interests of society and receive more general or more deserved punishment. To extend exemption from punishment for such crimes would be to shock the moral judgment of the community. To call their advocacy a tenet of religion is to offend the common sense of mankind. If they are crimes, then to teach, advise and counsel their practice is to aid in their commission, and such teaching and counseling are themselves criminal and proper subjects of punishment, as aiding and abetting crime are in all other cases.
     “The term ‘religion’ has reference to one’s views of his relations to his Creator, and to the obligations they impose of reverence for his being and character, and of obedience to his will. The first amendment to the Constitution, in declaring that Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or forbidding the free exercise thereof, was intended to allow every one under the jurisdiction of the United States to entertain such notions respecting his relations to his Maker and the duties they impose as may be approved by his judgment and conscience, and to exhibit his sentiments in such form of worship as he may think proper, not injurious to the equal rights of others, and to prohibit legislation for the support of any religious tenets, or the modes of worship of any sect. The oppressive measures adopted, and the cruelties and punishments inflicted by the governments of Europe for many ages, to compel parties to conform, in their religious beliefs and modes of worship, to the views of the most numerous sect, and the folly of attempting in that way to control the mental operations of persons, and enforce an outward conformity to a prescribed standard, led to the adoption of the amendment in question (The Court failed to point out that the spiritual atrocities were continued in the colonies, in the conflict between the established churches and the dissenters.)It was never intended or supposed that the amendment could be invoked as a protection against legislation for the punishment of acts inimical to the peace, good order and morals of society. With man’s relations to his Maker and the obligations he may think they impose, and the manner in which an expression shall be made by  him of his belief on those subjects, no interference can be permitted, provided always the laws of society, designed to secure its peace and prosperity, and the morals of its people, are not interfered with. However free the exercise of religion may be, it must be subordinate to the criminal laws of the country, passed with reference to actions regarded by general consent as properly the subjects of punitive legislation. There have been sects which denied as a part of their religious tenets that there should be any marriage tie, and advocated promiscuous intercourse of the sexes as prompted by the passions of its members. And history discloses the fact that the necessity of human sacrifices, on special occasions, has been a tenet of many sects. Should a sect of either of these kinds ever find its way into this country, swift punishment would follow the carrying into effect of its doctrines, and no heed would be given to the pretense that, as religious beliefs, their supporters could be protected in their exercise by the Constitution of the United States. Probably never before in the history of this country has it been seriously contended that the whole punitive power of the government for acts, recognized by the general consent of the Christian world in modern times as proper matters for prohibitory legislation, must be suspended in order that the tenets of a religious sect encouraging crime may be carried out without hindrance…” (Davis v. Beason, 133 U.S. 333, 341-43, 345 (1890). In Davis, a man was convicted of a crime under Idaho law and filed a writ of habeas corpus claiming that the law under which he was convicted violated the First Amendment “free exercise of religion” clause. The law prohibited one who belonged to a church organization that holds or teaches bigamy and polygamy as a doctrine of the church from voting or holding office.). [Emphasis mine].
“Marriage, while from its very nature a sacred obligation, is, nevertheless, in most civilized nations a civil contract [The Court was wrong in pronouncing that marriage is a civil contract. Section VI of God Betrayed deals with the fallacy that marriage is a civil contract. Although polygamy is contrary to the will of God, where does the Bible teach that polygamy should be subject to criminal sanctions?], and usually regulated by law. Upon it society may be said to be built, and out of its fruits spring social relations and social obligations and duties, with which government is necessarily required to deal” (Ibid., pp. 343-344. Although one can argue as to whether the Bible prescribes a criminal penalty for bigamy, it is certain that God’s Word commands one husband with only one wife.).
“Whilst legislation for the establishment of religion is forbidden, and its free exercise permitted, it does not follow that everything which may be so called can be tolerated. Crime is not the less odious because sanctioned by what any particular sect may designate as religion” (Ibid., p. 345).
     “Certainly no legislation can be supposed more wholesome and necessary in the founding of a free, self-governing commonwealth, fit to take rank as one of the coordinate States of the Union, than that which seeks to establish it on the basis of the idea of the family, as consisting in and springing from the union for life of one man and one woman in the holy estate of matrimony; the sure foundation of all that is stable and noble in our civilization; the best guarantee of that reverent morality which is the source of all beneficent progress in social and political improvement” (Ibid., citing Murphy v. Ramsey, 114 U.S. 15, 45. The court is right that marriage and family are important to the well-being of a nation. But, as has been pointed out, the God-given goal of a nation should be the glory of God. If the glory of God is the goal, correct marital and familial principles will follow. Nowhere in Scripture can one infer that the civil government has the authority to legislate and enforce laws dealing with marriage and familial relationships. A civil government does have the God-given authority to criminalize sexual sins which include sodomy, fornication, and adultery.).

To summarize what the Court said, the First Amendment religion clause gave us freedom of religion, freedom of conscience (Ibid., p. 342).  It separated church and state. However, when an act violated the criminal laws of the nation, the perpetrator was to be punished even if the act were in conformity with the beliefs of his sect (Ibid., pp. 341-347).  The Court declared that the criminal laws of this nation were founded on alleged “Christian” (not biblical) principles. In other words, the Court incorrectly stated that the United States looked to God for its principles (Ibid.). The Court made this clear although it did not use these exact words. For example, on page 343 of the opinion the Court said, “Probably never before in the history of this country has it been seriously contended that the whole punitive power of the government for acts, recognized by the general consent of the Christian world in modern times as proper matters for prohibitory legislation, must be suspended in order that the tenets of a religious sect encouraging crime may be carried out without hindrance.” Notice that the Court went to the views of the “Christian” world, not to the Word of God to determine the issues addressed. In other words, the Court got its principles from rules made by church-state combinations, not from the Bible. The sect which the Court referred to was the Mormon “church” and the crime designated as a practice of a sect or “religion” was polygamy and bigamy (Ibid., pp. 334-335).  Thus, according to the Court, the First Amendment gave the Mormon “church” the right to exist in America (Ibid., p. 342);  the First Amendment gave those who belonged to the Mormon “church” the right to practice what was designated by their “church” as “religion” (Ibid.); but the First Amendment did not give those who belonged to the Mormon “church” the right to put into practice the duties imposed by their sect when those duties were recognized by the general consent of the Christian world as proper matters for prohibitory legislation (Ibid., p. 343).

The Court spoke ofMaker,” of “acts recognized by the general consent of the Christian world in modern times as proper matters for prohibitory legislation,” and of “morals of a [nation’s people]” (Ibid. pp. 342-343). As correctly declared by the Court, the United States of America got its guidelines for what was criminal and for what is moral and what is immoral from looking at the “Christian world,” not by looking at the Bible. Thus, although the jurisprudence purported to be Christian, it was polluted to a degree (Ibid. pp. 341-345), since the rules the Court looked at were made by “churches” working with, over, or under the state. As is stated in these teachings, when the holy is combined with the unholy, the unholy always corrupts the holy (the holy never purifies the unholy). Bigamy was practiced by men in Israel as recorded in the Old Testament. However, no law under God in the theocracy of Israel was ever passed to criminalize bigamy. Of course the Bible teaches one man and one wife under God; but nowhere (Old and New Testament) does the Bible teach that either bigamy or polygamy, although sin in God’s eyes, should be criminalized. All crimes are also sins, but not all sins are to be criminalized according to the Word of God.

In Rector, Etc., of Holy Trinity Church: v. United States in 1892, the court stated a somewhat flawed history of Christianity within the United States:

“[The … charters of the original colonies, the Mayflower Compact, governing documents of early colonies, the Declaration of Independence, the constitutions of the various states, and the Constitution of the United States] are not individual sayings, declarations of private persons. They are organic utterances. They speak the voice of the entire people. [They declare that this is a Christian nation]. While because of a general recognition of this truth the question has seldom been presented to the courts, yet we find that in Updegraph v. Com. 11 Serg & R 394, 400, ‘It was decided that, Christianity, general Christianity, is, and always has been, a part of the common law of Pennsylvania; … not Christianity with an established church and tithes and spiritual courts, but Christianity with liberty of conscience to all men.’ [The Court was not entirely accurate in its historical assessment.] And in People v. Ruggles, 8 Johns 290, 294, 295, Chancellor Kent, the great commentator on American law, speaking as chief justice of the Supreme Court of New York, said: ‘The people of this state, in common with the people of this country, profess the general doctrines of Christianity as the rule of their faith and practice; and to scandalize the author of these doctrines is not only, in a religious point of view, extremely impious, but even in respect to the obligations due to society, is a gross violation of decency and good order…. The free, equal, and undisturbed enjoyment of religious opinion, whatever it may be, and free and decent discussions on any religious subject, is granted and secured; but to revile, with malicious and blasphemous contempt, the religion professed by almost the whole community is an abuse of that right. Nor are we bound by any expressions in the constitution, as some have strangely supposed, either not to punish at all, or to punish indiscriminately the like attacks upon the religion of Mahomet or of the Grand Lama; and for this plain reason, that the case assumes that we are a Christian people, and the morality of the country is deeply ingrafted upon Christianity, and not upon the doctrines or worship of those impostors.’ And in the famous case of Vidal v. Girard’s Ex’rs, 2 How. 127, 198, this court, while sustaining the will of Mr. Girard, with its provision for the creation of a college into which no minister should be permitted to enter, observed: ‘It is also said, and truly, that the Christian religion is a part of the common law of Pennsylvania.’
“If we pass beyond these matters to a view of American life, as expressed by its laws, its business, its customs, and society, we find everywhere a clear recognition of the same truth. [The laws, business, customs, and society of America, including the Constitution, were not entirely Christian but a blend of Christian and other thought.] Among other matters note the following: The form of oath universally prevailing, concluding with an appeal to the almighty; the custom of opening sessions of all deliberative bodies and most conventions with prayer; the prefatory words of all wills, ‘In the name of God, amen;’ the laws respecting the observance of the Sabbath, with the general cessation of all secular business, and the closing of courts, legislatures, and other similar public assemblies on that day; the churches and church organizations which abound in every city, town, and hamlet; the multitude of charitable organizations existing everywhere under Christian auspices; the gigantic missionary associations, with general support, and aiming to establish Christian missions in every quarter of the globe. These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation” (Rector, Etc., of Holy Trinity Church v. United States, 143 U.S. 457 at 471-472, 12 S. Ct. 511 at 516 (1892)). [Emphasis mine. Bracketed sentence added by this author. Christopher Columbus was a Catholic, and regardless of his declarations that his journey to the New World was inspired by God, Catholicism in the part of the New World dominated by that religion has produced entirely different and substantially inferior consequences than those seen in America prior to the denunciation of God by the American government.]

The majority of the justices at that time were Christians or at least men who respected Christianity. However, they obviously were weak spiritually since they relied upon man’s reasoning instead of the Word of God. They handed down opinions which attempted to honor God. Even though the Church of the Holy Trinity, the plaintiff in the case, was a corporation and therefore out of the perfect will of God, the Court still recognized some biblical principles in its decision. Obviously, they did not know and understand the true history of the First Amendment. They were influenced more by the theology of churches which had historically taught and practiced union of church and state than they were by historic Baptist (biblical) theology which had inspired men to stand against church-state establishments in both the Old World and in the American colonies; and consequently to be persecuted for (including being burned at the stake, drowned, drawn and quartered, drowned, buried alive, etc.) for their stand which included a stand for separation of church and state. Sadly, neither no justices (including Supreme Court Justices), nor the lawyers who argued to them, ever expressed the facts about the true foundation of the First Amendment.

The suit in Holy Trinity Church arose because the church, a corporation, hired an Englishman to serve as pastor. A federal law made it unlawful for “any person, company, partnership, or corporation” to bring in an immigrant into the United States “under contract or agreement” “to perform labor or service of any kind in the United States, its Territories, or the District of Columbia” (Ibid., p. 458, 12 S. Ct. at 511).

The Court noted that “a thing may be within the letter of the statute and yet not within the statute, because not within its spirit, nor within the intention of its makers” and that “[t]he reason of the law in such cases should prevail over its letter” (Ibid., p. 459, 461, 12 S. Ct. at 512). The Court then stated, in examining the intent of the legislature in making the law:

“Obviously the thought expressed in this reaches only to the work of the manual laborer, as distinguished from that of the professional man. No one reading such a title would suppose that Congress had in its mind any purpose of staying the coming into this country of ministers of the gospel, or, indeed, of any class whose toil is that of the brain. The common understanding of the terms labor and laborers does not include preaching and preachers; and it is to be assumed that words and phrases are used in their ordinary meaning. So whatever of light is thrown upon the statute by the language of the title indicates an exclusion from its penal provisions of all contracts for the employment of ministers, rectors and pastors” (Ibid., p. 463, 12 S. Ct. at 513).

The Court further examined the intent of the statute, then stated:

“But beyond all these matters no purpose of action against religion can be imputed to any legislation, state or national, because this is a religious people. This is historically true” (Ibid., p. 465, 12 S. Ct. at 514).

From there, the Court proceeded to give a flawed history of the nation concluding that this is a Christian nation.

Many of the quotations in Holy Trinity Church use the word “religion” in referring to Christianity. The opinion traces the Christian heritage of America, although the Court failed to point out the theological conflict that resulted in the First Amendment (Ibid., pp. 465-470, 12 S. Ct. at 514-516).  Christianity and religion were synonymous to the majority of Americans, including the majority on the Supreme Court. This had been so universally accepted as truth that the courts had seldom addressed it (Ibid., p. 470, 12 S. Ct. at 516)!

From God’s perspective as reflected in His Word, the reasoning in even these nineteenth century opinions was flawed. For example, the Court referred to Jefferson’s obscure letter to the Danbury Baptists. In that letter, Jefferson used deistic terms and enlightenment reasoning. He referred to “restoring man to all his natural rights, convinced that he has no natural rights in opposition to his social duties.” The Court referred to “the laws of all civilized and Christian countries” and not to the Bible or to God and His principles. The history given was definitely modified and revised to a degree. Although the reasoning was far better overall than that of the Court in the mid-twentieth century and thereafter—which would successfully attempt to remove God from all public affairs—it was still a compromise in God’s eyes. The holy had been mixed with the unholy, and the holy was thereby corrupted and on its way out.

A time would come during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries when the majority on the Court, and the majority of Americans, were not born-again Christians. When that happened, the failure of the Constitution to declare the sovereignty of God and the proper goal for the nation–the glory of God—and the inclusion of enlightenment principles in the Constitution (and the Declaration of Independence) would make the undermining of Christian values and the removal of the nation from “under God” much easier.

Introduction to “Religion Clause Jurisprudence”


Jerald Finney
Copyright © January 13, 2012


Click here to go to links to all Chapters in Section V.


Introduction to
Section V of God Betrayed
“Religion Clause Jurisprudence”

Pr.29.2“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).

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

With Everson, “establishment of religionbecame 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.

8While 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).

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
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.

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.

14thAm.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.

1According 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.

1As 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 2Christians 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.

1Thus, 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.’ …
2“[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.).

21Generally 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:

  • 1“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.”

6The 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.

1Co.2.14Since 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).