The simple phrase, “separation of church and state,” is often quoted by the anti-faith movement, used in legislative and legal challenges and frequently distorted in terms of its original intent. Though not found anywhere in our Founding Documents, these five words have been misconstrued and misused in a determined effort by secular and atheistic naysayers to convince an entire generation that God, biblical values and prayer should be completely excluded from anything related to government, leadership, business or matters related to life in the public square.
President Thomas Jefferson first coined the phrase in a letter written to the Danbury Baptists. However, contrary to the opinions of rogue demagogues, Jefferson was not seeking to limit the public expression of faith, but was in fact, deeply committed to religious freedom. Library of Congress records reveal the following,
“…on Sundays in Washington during the administrations of Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) and of James Madison (1809-1817), the state became the church. Within a year of his inauguration [after writing the letter to the Danbury Baptists], Jefferson began attending church services in the House of Representatives. Madison followed Jefferson’s example….Throughout his administration, Jefferson permitted church services in executive branch buildings. The Gospel was also preached in the Supreme Court chambers.” Read more
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C., adds that Jefferson’s letter must be read from the context of his declaration in the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom: “Almighty God hath created the mind free….” The “wall of separation” exists to affirm natural rights, including those of faith and religious worship. The infamous “wall” was not referenced to imprison the free exercise of religion. Rather, Jefferson sought to prevent the supremacy of any one particular denomination after experiencing persecution under the Church of England. Read more
While Jefferson, who was raised as an Anglican, is sometimes viewed as a deist and not necessarily a strong advocate for Christian theism, his support for religious freedom cannot be discarded or minimized. Here are his own words, “God who gave us life, gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God.”1
In a letter he penned in 1799, Jefferson also stated, “We have solved, by fair experiment, the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving everyone to profess freely and openly [emphasis mine] those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries.”2
In other commentary, the Alliance Defending Freedom, a strategic association of attorneys, national ministry leaders and religious liberty experts, maintains:
“While the First Amendment clearly forbids the creation of a national denomination, it says nothing about the so-called ‘separation of church and state’… The true purpose of the First Amendment was to prohibit the federal government from establishing a national church, like the Church of England, or require that sectarian policy be forced on an individual state or on the federal government. While the amendment does recognize a ‘differentiation between church and the government, it does not mean that they could not cooperate with each other.’” Read full resource
Sadly, in many ways, the very government that was established to protect and advocate for our religious freedoms, now too frequently allows the same spirit of intolerance, coercion and legislative bullying tactics that the Church of England was once known for. Can we believe it will require anything less than committed men and women of passion and determination to rise up together and once again make our voices heard within the halls of power? We the people—especially when armed with the truth supported by history’s validation—will always triumph if we stand together.
Over the decades, many of our Presidents and leaders have believed that religion and morality were indispensable supports to a healthy and God-honoring Constitutional Republic. We agree. Therefore, the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation remains resolute in its commitment to restore, revitalize and champion America’s founding spirit and the principles related to faith and Judeo-Christian values in order to secure America’s future and freedom for all. Will you join us? We must each glean from our own wisdom and experiences and work together to reeducate Americans when it comes to these core concepts. For God and for Country!
The true meaning and spirit on the separation of church and state does not mean a total divorce and disconnection between God and government. Rather, it explicitly limits and deters active interference by the government in dictating a person’s conscience in matters of faith and practice. Thank you for your faithful prayers and support – we could not do this without you.