by Terry Paulson
To many secular Americans, God should be zoned out of public life and expressions of faith should be limited to the home and places of worship. Certainly, our Founding Fathers supported freedom of religion—the right to believe any faith or to not believe at all. But there was no desire to diminish the importance of or the expression of faith in the public square.
The First Amendment states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The intent was established in the 1789 U.S. Congressional Records where God’s principles where affirmed but no one national denomination would define those principles.
The often-quoted “separation of church and state” is not in the Constitution. It appeared first in an 1802 letter written by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association where he stated, “The First Amendment has erected a wall of separation between church and state.” Jefferson was addressing their fear of the establishment of a national denomination.
As Rush Limbaugh observed, “The separation of church and state in our Constitution is not there to protect Americans from religion. It is there to protect Americans from the government.”
In 1892, the United States Supreme Court made an exhaustive study of the connection between Christianity and the U.S. government. Justice David Brewer writing for the majority affirmed, “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.”
Now, Justice David Brewer, in his 1905 book, The United States: A Christian Nation, warned: “But in what sense can (the United States) be called a Christian nation? Not in the sense that Christianity is the established religion or the people are compelled in any manner to support it…. On the contrary, all religions have free scope within its borders. Numbers of our people profess other religions, and many reject all.”
In America, both liberty and faith exist in a vibrant tension. Unfortunately, later Supreme Court decisions have gone too far in taking expressions of faith out of our schools and the public square.
In 1962, the Supreme Court struck down school prayer. For the first time in the country’s 170 years of existence, the court, without precedent or support from previous cases, defined “church” as being other than a federally established denomination. “Church” was redefined to mean any religious activity performed in public. This expanded definition prohibited religious activities of any kind in schools; prayer was no longer allowed. The Supreme Court launched a brand new direction for an America without God. Subsequent rulings went on to ban Bible readings, even stating in the 1963 ruling of Abington vs. Schempp: “If portions of the New Testament were read without explanation they could be and…had been psychologically harmful to the child.”
The America of today is not the America of our Founding Fathers, but they would be appalled at the religious restrictions imposed on today’s citizens. To those working on our Constitution, the Judeo-Christian faith provided America’s moral compass and the foundation for many of its treasured rights.
John Adams said, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
George Washington’s Farewell Address warned of the importance of religious faith: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who would labor to subvert these great pillars…. Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds…reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
They knew the vital connection between liberty, morality and faith. And there is more to faith than morality. Caring faith communities throughout the country support fellow believers and challenge them to serve others. Americans are a giving people, and religious citizens give the most in terms of their time and money to help those in need.
Ronald Reagan said at the 1982 Presidential Prayer Breakfast, “We expect Him to protect us in a crisis, but turn away from Him too often in our day-to-day living. I wonder if He isn’t waiting for us to wake up.”
The secular assault on the cultural importance of the Judeo-Christian faith has helped create a moral vacuum where a moral relativism prevails—what feels right to you is just as valid as what feels right to your neighbor. As Dostoyevsky observed, “If God does not exist, everything is permissible.” As a result, we’ve gone from a culture that condemned certain behaviors to one that tolerates and in some cases honors and promotes such behavior.
For nearly fifty years, Americans have allowed courts and legal activists to eliminate from our schools the principle source of a clear moral compass—a reverence for God and God’s law. We’ve watched silently as they’ve turned the American principle of “freedom of religion” into “freedom from religion.”
Dennis Prager has identified the American Trinity: “Liberty,” “In God We Trust,” and “E Pluribus Unum (from many one).” “In God We Trust” is on our money, but will it remain in our hearts and sustain our country in the future? That’s a decision made by every generation. If you value your faith and its importance to America’s future, reclaim America’s founding freedom of religion and take a stand for your faith.
May we remember Abraham Lincoln’s warning, “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” May we never forget!
— Terry Paulson of Agoura Hills is a psychologist, speaker and author. E-mail him at [email protected]. Website: http://www.terrypaulson.com
Originally published on RightNetwork.com
Used by Permission © 2011