The Catholic faith teachings freedom is a gift God gives to every person. In this third excerpt from my, TRANSFORMED BY CHRIST series, I continue my examination of the important question: Does God want us to be Free?
You can read the first part of this blog stream by pressing HERE.
SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE
Liberty, as all rational people realize, is not maintained at a low cost. In recent times, personal freedoms appear to be under attack from many different areas, not least of which is our ability to practice whatever religion we choose, in all areas of our lives. It seems many today, including judges, have forgotten the words and purpose of the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Let us look at that famous passage in more depth by examining smaller pieces:
CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW
This phrase makes it clear Congress cannot establish a religion. A reasonable search of the historical record reveals our founding fathers wanted to protect against a state church. However, nowhere in that phrase does it say religion cannot have a word about the State (the phrase implies the opposite). Congress cannot prevent religions from free expression, which includes speech in the public arena. Our culture attempts to rewrite the First Amendment by telling us we must practice our religion in private, or we must relegate faith to our homes or houses of worship (thereby declaring faith has no business in matters of the State). That is nonsense because people of faith have a right to express their views both in private and in public arenas. Nowhere in the historical record is there a time when the founders stated we must ignore our faith while in a public setting. The founders wanted to make sure the State did not infringe upon the free expression of faith—-they never intended it to be used to force religions into private settings.
Using the false argument of separating Church and State would mean that no person of strong faith can ever hold a public office or hold a public opinion because faith helps to form the heart, the soul, and the thoughts of a person with an abiding faith. Nowhere in our constitution are people of deep faith prohibited from holding office. It is a modern construct to attempt to derail faith-based morals from having an impact on the nation.
OR THE PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF
This phrase seems lost to current USA culture. Congress cannot prohibit the free exercise of religion. It cannot make laws that prohibit or limit the free practice of faith, and as stated above congress cannot remove the free expression of our faith. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say religions must withhold views on public matters. As previously stated, many people today speak of the wall separating church and state; however, nowhere in the Constitution does it say any such wall exists. If anything of this wall is true, it exists to prevent the state from intervening in religious practice. In other words, the so-called wall is one-way; it protects the rights of a free people to practice the faith of their choice without any interference from the state (this applies to people all religions and to those of no faith). Nowhere in the Constitution is the right to attack faith ever given. A letter written by Thomas Jefferson to Baptists in Danbury, Connecticut is the sole support for the wall between Church and State, as follows:
January 1, 1802
To messers. Nehemiah Dodge, Ephraim Robbins, & Stephen S. Nelson, a committee of the Danbury Baptist association in the state of Connecticut.
The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist association, give me the highest satisfaction. My duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, & in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & 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 & 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 to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.
I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection & blessing of the common father and creator of man, and tender you for yourselves & your religious association, assurances of my high respect & esteem.
There are several points to make about Jefferson’s letter:
(1) His letter has no binding authority upon our government. The letter contained his opinion, and no founding document contains those views.
(2) Jefferson was stating that, from his perspective, the State had no right to interfere in matters of faith. The wall, if we somehow glean it from the Jefferson letter, is a one-way barrier preventing the State from infringing on matters of faith—not the other way. Jefferson reiterates the First Amendment decree that the legislature: “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
(3) He ends his letter with an offer of prayers for those people he was addressing—it is an act often ignored today. His offer of prayers contradicts any thought that he was against churches or against matters of faith, which counters the mistaken views of many today. Jefferson had faith, he had enormous respect for the many churches, and he had respect for people of faith. He held the opinion that churches and faith must receive protection from the State. He did not hold that the State required protection from churches or from people of faith—that is a modern distortion of Jefferson’s words and of the intent of our founders, and of the first amendment.
This section centering on constitutional freedoms continues in part four.
Thank you for reading,