Jerald Finney © February, 2014
- See also,
- Baptists: Separation of Church and State
- Top 5 myths of separation of church and state
by J. Brent Walker, Baptist Joint Committee
- Baptists and Religious Liberty: Where do we stand today? by J. Brent Walker
Knowing the correct answer to the question, “Is ‘Separation of Church and State found in the Constitution?” Knowing the correct answer to that question is vital in the success of the spiritual warfare of the Christian political activist in America. Does the First Amendment to the United States Constitution establish a wall which is to keep church out of state and state out of church; or does it set up a one way wall: that is, does it forbid state to stay out of church matters, but allow church to enter into state matters? If the latter, since “churches” vary in belief so dramatically, which church is to control in the affairs of state? Most Christians assert that the phrase “One nation under God” on our currency and in our Pledge of Allegiance make clear that the Constitution forbids separation of church and state. They state that the phrase “separation of church and state” is not found in the Constitution; that the Constitution through the First Amendment does not separate church and state. Are they correct in their understanding? [For a thorough analysis of the source of the misunderstandings-revisionist history-set alongside the easily verifiable history with complete citations, see information page on The Trail of Blood of the Martyrs of Jesus by clicking here.]
I begin with an actual encounter with a “Christian” political activist over this matter of the meaning of separation of church and state. Then I:
1) briefly explain my position with reference particularly to the beliefs of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (with links to more extensive and in depth studies);
2) briefly reveal those who are promoting the incorrect version of “separation of church and state” to conservative Americans (and more specifically to “Christians”) today and their motives;
3) briefly answer the question of whether the Constitution or any other governing document requires the federal government to be guided by God and His principles and explain how a nation can proceed under God without combining church and state;
4) briefly address biblical teaching on the downfall of a nation;
In 2008, I started a seminar in El Paso, Texas with the diagram at left. A activist Christian lady immediately raised her hand and pointed out that the diagram separated church and state and that she did not agree with this. I had anticipated this question because I had struggled with the issue of separation of church and state for many years. Some years before this seminar I had begun to read in books and articles and to hear on Christian radio and from other Christians that “separation of church and state is not found in the Constitution.” I repeated that sound bite many times myself, but I was always perplexed as to where to go from the simple statement. I had read that the Supreme Court totally misinterpreted Jefferson’s Danbury Letter to mean that the First Amendment created a wall between church and state that was never intended. I had also read that the original intent of the religion clause of the First Amendment was to keep the state out of church affairs but not to keep the church out of state affairs; that the wall only functioned one way. Was this true? I found the answers to these questions after years of historical and legal studies.
I answered the lady’s concerns by stating that I believed that she and I were on the same page; that I believe that most of our founding fathers never intended to separate God and state, but that they did indeed intend to separate church and state. I mentioned that the writings of James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and most of our Founding Fathers showed that they understood this. They knew that church-state unions have always, without exception, resulted in the corruption of both church and state as well as individual citizens, horrible persecutions (imprisonments, murder and torture) of those who did not bow down to the established “church” and its theology, and many other undesirable consequences. The history of the First Amendment proves this (See the “History of the First Amendment” which is available online in the PDF of God Betrayed Section IV and in Online form). Madison and Jefferson were eyewitnesses to the persecutions of dissenting Baptists in Virginia and they understood the history of the persecutions of all those who exercised their God-given freedom to choose a theology contrary to that of the church-state unions, the establishment. They were aware that all church-state unions, beginning with the marriage of church and state in the early fourth century, continuing throughout the dark and middle ages, the reformation, and in the American colonies up until the time they lived resulted in horrible persecutions of those who would not bow down to the established beliefs.
Jefferson’s writings make clear his position on separation of church and state. For example, in 1779 he wrote the Virginia Act for Religious Liberty which was passed in 1786. The act included three factors: church, state, and the individual. It protected the individual from loss at the hands of state incursion into his church affiliation, and implicitly banned church establishment. See En1 to read the entire act and another quote from Jefferson. Jefferson never swerved from his devotion to the complete independence of church and state (See also pp. 264-283 of God Betrayed to read more about Jefferson’s position. Click here to go directly to PDF of God Betrayed.).
Madison also fought for separation of church and state in Virginia. He wrote, in his famous “Memorial and Remonstrance:”
- “… Because experience witnesses that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution. Inquire of the teachers of Christianity for the ages in which it appeared in its greatest luster; those of every sect point to the ages prior to its incorporation with civil policy. Propose a restoration of this primitive state, in which its teachers depended on the voluntary rewards of their flocks, many of them predict its downfall….
- “Because the establishment in question is not necessary for the support of civil government…. If religion be not within the cognizance of civil government, how can its legal establishment be said to be necessary for civil government? What influences, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In some instances, they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; in more instances, have they been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the publick liberty, may have found on established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government instituted to secure and perpetuate it needs them not. Such a government will be best supported by protecting every citizen in the enjoyment of his religion, with the same equal hand which protects his person and property; by neither invading the equal hand which protects his person and property; by neither invading the equal rights of any sect, nor suffering any sect to invade those of another….”
See pages 278-279 of God Betrayed (Click here to go directly to online PDF of God Betrayed) for more extensive excerpts from “Memorial and Remonstrance.” Click here to go directly to the complete Memorial and Remonstrance online.
Thus, when the First Amendment was introduced and promoted by James Madison, the only question was the exact wording of the Amendment. The representatives at the Constitutional Convention understood that the purpose of the religion clause was (1) to place a two way wall between church and state (This purpose is stated in the establishment clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”) and (2) to provide for freedom of conscious, also known as free will or soul liberty (This purpose is stated in the free exercise clause: “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”). These two purposes go hand in hand. The historical established churches, beginning with the spiritual harlot called the Catholic “church” and then her offspring-Protestant “churches”- violently persecuted (hung, burnt at the stake, drowned, buried alive, imprisoned, tortured with unspeakable horror) those who exercised their God-given free will in contradiction to the doctrines of the church-state establishment and were labeled “heretics” by the established church.
At the seminar, I explained my position in more detail and showed that the same theology that justified union of church and state was initially developed and expanded upon from earlier sources by Augustine, practiced by the Catholic church, and later by Protestant churches (in modified form). Proponents of those same theologies remain at work to achieve the impossible goals of their adherents (peace and unity throughout the earth) in America today. In fact, many adherents of those theologies are very active in, and are leaders in, the contemporary American political warfare. Many believe that they will set up the kingdom of heaven on earth, the millennium, either through the efforts of the church or through a church-state combination and without the intervention our Lord Jesus Christ. Others believe that there is no millennium, and that a worldwide church-state combination will bring peace and unity to the earth. Others, such as myself, are totally convinced that the Bible teaches that Christ Himself will return at Armageddon and set up and reign over the earth for a thousand years by power. See En2 for various explanations of millennialism.
Along with the question of whether First Amendment separates church and state, another question that needs to be addressed is whether the Constitution or any other governing document requires the federal government to be guided by God and His principles? The Founding Fathers while implementing the biblical principle of separation of church and state in the First Amendment did not understand that a nation should, within her organic governing documents, recognize that the God of the Bible, the only God, that He should be honored and hailed as the ruler of nations, and that His principles should be recognized and applied within the laws of the nation and in the interpretation of those laws.
A nation can proceed under God without combining church and state. How? The constitution of such a nation will:
1) name the name of Jesus as the Supreme ruler;
2) make clear that the nation will look to the biblical doctrines of government, church, and separation of church and state in ordering and carrying out its responsibilities under God;
3) lay out its God-given jurisdiction as explained in the Bible;
4) separate church and state. The First Amendment implements the biblical principle of separation of church and state.
5) provide for religious liberty (also called soul liberty or freedom of conscience). The First Amendment does this.
6) guarantee freedom of speech, press, assembly and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The First Amendment does this.
See En3 for information on an historical example of governing documents which proved that this can be done.
The Constitution allows, but does not require, Americans to recognize the God of the Universe, the God of creation, almighty God, and to operate according to His principles and to pray in the name of Jesus even at government functions. This is obvious from a study of history including the multitude of statements made by Presidents, senators, representatives, government officials at all levels of government; and from a reading and study of state constitutions, laws, and federal and state legal cases.
History also shows that almost everyone in America at the time of the adoption of the Constitution reverenced the Bible and the God of the Bible and that prayers were made to Him at official government functions. Of course, the United States Supreme Court has removed the recognition of God (and especially the Lord Jesus Christ) from practically all civil government affairs. See for an explanation of how the Supreme Court has done this: The Supreme Court Reinterprets the First Amendment and Removes God or Section V of God Betrayed.
However, sad to say, neither the Constitution nor any other federal governing document names the name of Jesus and requires that the United States government be guided by God and His principles (being guided by God and His principles is something entirely different from establishing a church). If you disagree, show me one Constitutional provision or federal law which either requires recognition of God (and specifically the Lord Jesus Christ) and/or His principles as laid out in His Word. I submit that there is none.
Unlearned Christians (this author was once in their fold) argue that the implementation of certain biblical principles in the Constitution prove that the Constitution is a “Christian” document. However, they fail to point out the enlightenment principles which pollute the Constitution. I deal more in depth with these matters in God Betrayed.
Unstudied Christians argue, as this author once did, that the Declaration of Independence did recognize God and that Americans march behind the banner of the Declaration. However, the Declaration was written over a decade before the adoption of the Constitution and the First Amendment, and the Declaration is not law despite the rhetoric which says, “We proceed under the banner of the Declaration of Independence.” This author contends that even the Declaration is flawed when biblically analyzed. Even if the contention that it is not flawed were correct, the Declaration is not controlling law and an examination of the Declaration and the Constitution leaves open the obvious contention that Americans had changed between the time of the writing of the Declaration and the adoption of the Constitution.
The Bible teaches that a Gentile nation, as well as the nation Israel, that rejects the one true God, the God of the Bible, and His principles will become more and more morally bankrupt, will digress to political tyranny, and ultimately be judged by God. The United States is a moral cesspool and is well into the political tyranny stage. You may go to the following audio teaching for a thorough examination of Scripture on this matter: “The Biblical Doctrine of Government.” That teaching is also available in detailed form in Section I God Betrayed in PDF form or which can be ordered by going to Order Information for Books by Jerald Finney. A thorough analysis is impossible in a short article such as this, but here are a few verses from the Old Testament which substantiate this conclusion:
- “The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens” Psm. 133:4.
- “Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him…. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance…. There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength.” (Psm. 33.8, 12, 16; see the whole chapter of Psm. 33). [Bold emphasis mine]
- “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder and case their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the LORD shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.…. Thou [Jesus] shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” Psm. 2:1-5, 9-12 (The 2nd Psalm gives the order of the establishment of the kingdom.).
The Old Testament details God’s principles for nations, both Jew and Gentile, and lays out the complete history and fate of nations from beginning to end. God ordained civil government, and the fact that God desires nations to submit to Him and His principles is undeniable. That no nation ever has or ever will do so before He returns and establishes His Kingdom on earth is clear from a literal interpretation of scripture.
In spite of the flaws in the Constitution, America, to a great extent, originally honored God. Of course, the First Amendment was not a flaw; the religion clause was a statement of the biblical principle of separation of church and state. With the passing of time, the flaws in the document have made it easier for the natural progression of moral awfulness and political tyranny. This author, like most politically active “Christians” worked-not according to knowledge, understanding and wisdom-to “bring America back under God.” As a result of those efforts in the Republican Party (1982-beginning of the twenty-first century), I saw that America continued to grow worse in every way and at an accelerated pace in spite of our efforts. By 2002, I realized that America had become a grossly immoral nation. America is now a tyrannical and morally awful nation much worse than it was in 2002.
In 2005 God focused my efforts on His doctrine of the church, which is where they should have been in the first place. If Christians cannot get the doctrine of the church right in understanding and practice, how in the world do they think they can get civil government right? Even though many “believers” still seek to honor God in the political arena, they are not proceeding according to knowledge, wisdom, and understanding in either their government or their church efforts. God makes clear that when His people do not act according to knowledge (among other things), they will fall (See, e.g., 2 Pe. 1.2-10; Ho. 4).
For more in depth studies of the First Amendment, one can go to the following resources:
The History of the First Amendment
An Abridged History of the First Amendment
En1. Jefferson wrote: “Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.” Jefferson understood that establishment of a church (a church working with, over, or under civil government) always brings the worst of persecution of those who do not bow down to the church-state or state-church union.”
The Virginia Bill for Religious Liberty written by Jefferson and passed in 1786 stated:
“I. Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the Holy Author of our religion, who being Lord of both body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do;
that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such, endeavoring to impose them on others hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world and through all time;
that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness, … that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than [on] our opinions in physics or geometry;
that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow citizens he has a natural right; …
that to 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, because he being of course judge of that tendency, will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they shall square with, or differ from his own;
that it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government for its officers to interfere when principles break out into overt [open, or public] acts against peace and good order;
and, finally, that truth is great and will prevail if left to herself, that she is proper and sufficient antagonist to error and has nothing to fear from the conflict, unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate, errors [cease] to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.
“II. Be it enacted by the General Assembly that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinion in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
“III. And though we well know that this assembly, elected by the people for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding assemblies, constituted with powers equal to her own, and that therefore to declare this act irrevocable would be of no effect in law, yet, as we are free to declare, and do declare, that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural right of mankind, and that if any act shall hereafter be passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural rights.”
En2. The word millennium means “1000 years” and comes from Re. 20. 4-6 where it says that certain people “came to life, and reigned with Christ a thousand years. There are three major views on the time and nature of the millennium.
Amillennialism takes the position that this is a period during which Satan’s influence has been greatly reduced so that the gospel can be preached throughout the world. Christ does not bodily reign during this period, and there is no future millennium yet to come. Amillennialists believe that the term “thousand years” is a figure of speech for a long period of time in which God’s will will be accomplished. Christ will return at the end of this period, believers and unbelievers will be resurrected, unbelievers will be eternally condemned and believers reunited with their spirits, judged, and will enjoy heaven forever.
According to postmillennialism, Christ will return after the millennium. The church and state, operating during the period in which we now live, will establish peace and righteousness and a millennial age will occur when this occurs. At the end of that thousand years, Christ will return to earth, believers and unbelievers will be raised, the final judgment will occur, a new heaven and a new earth will be established, and we will enter into the eternal state.
Premillennialism teaches that Christ will return before the millennium, believers who have died will be raised from the dead, their bodies reunited with their spirits, will reign with Christ 1000 years. During this 1000 years, Satan will be bound. At the end of that period, he will be loosed and will lead the unbelievers of the millennium in rebellion against Christ. Satan and his followers will be defeated, Christ will raise the dead and they will be judged. Those whose names are not found written in the book of life will be cast, as was Satan, into the lake of fire. At the final judgment, believers will enter into the eternal state.
There are two main premillennial positions. Classic premillennialism says Christ will return after the great tribulation, rapture believers, and that believes will reign with Christ on earth for 1000 years. Pretribulational premillennialism teaches that Christ will return part way to earth before the tribulation, call believers to Himself, , and return to heaven with those believers. This will be followed by a seven year period of great tribulation. At the end of that time, Christ will return, crush all the Gentile armies which have come against Israel, and set up His millennial reign. See, e.g., Wayne Gruden, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2000), pp. 1109-1113.
En3. The first government in history with complete religious freedom was the government of the colony or Rhode Island (See the online version, “The Baptists in Rhode Island” or go to Section IV, Chapter 6 of God Betrayed available in PDF form – for ordering information go to the following link: Order information for Books by Jerald Finney.).
The first government in history that was to have complete freedom of conscience and religious liberty also declared that the government was to be under the Lord Jesus Christ. Signed on March 7, 1638, the Portsmouth Compact read:
“We whose names are underwritten do swear solemnly, in the presence of Jehovah, to incorporate ourselves into a body politic, and as he shall help us, will submit our persons, lives and estates, unto our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, and to all those most perfect and absolute laws of his, given us in his holy word of truth, to be guided and judged thereby.” 38 [19 signatures followed: Thomas Savage, William Dyre, William Freeborne, Philip Sherman, John Walker, Richard Carder, William Baulstone, Edward Hutchinson, Sen., Henry Bull, Randal Holden, William Coddington, John Clarke, William Hutchinson, John Coggshall, William Aspinwall, Samuel Wilbore, John Porter, Edward Hutchinson, Jun., and John Sanford.].
Three passages were marked in support of the compact: Exodus 24.3, 4; II Chronicles
2.3; and II Kings 11.17.
In August of 1638, the people of Providence approved the first public document establishing government without interference in religious matters, the Providence Compact:
“We whose names are here underwritten being desirous to inhabit in the town of Providence, do promise to submit ourselves in active or passive obedience to all such orders or agreement as shall be made for public good to the body in an orderly way, by the major consent of the present inhabitants, masters of families, incorporated together into a township, and such others whom they shall admit into the same, only in civil things.” [Signed by Stukely Westcoat, William Arnold, Thomas James, Robert Cole, John Greene, John Throckmorton, William Harris, William Carpenter, Thomas Olney, Francis Weston, Richard Watearman, and Ezekiel Holliman.]
As James R. Beller proclaims, the document was “the first of a series of American political documents promulgating government by the consent of the governed and liberty of conscience” (James R. Beller, America in Crimson Red: The Baptist History of America (Arnold, Missouri: Prairie Fire Press, 2004), p. 13). Thus, liberty of conscience was the basis for legislation in Rhode Island, and its annals have remained to this day [when Underhill wrote this] unsullied by the blot of persecution. (Roger Williams and Edward Bean Underhill, The Bloudy Tenent of Persecution for Cause of Conscience Discussed and Mr. Cotton’s Letter Examined and Answered. (London: Printed for the Society, by J. Haddon, Castle Street, Finsbury, 1848 (Reprint)), p. xxviii).