Many Americans believe the so-called wall of separation between church and state in the U.S. means that God and government must be separate.
Like many other governing principles, the phrase "separation of church and state" itself does not appear verbatim in the U.S. Constitution.
However, Thomas Kidd, author of the book God and Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution says his research proves the Founding Fathers had a completely different view. He says the Founders wanted to protect weak denominations from colonial governments that were persecuting them.
"You have Baptist preachers who are being thrown in jail for illegal preaching in Virginia," explained Kidd, who is also an associate professor of history at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. "And James Madison as a young man watches this going on and he think it is despicable. He says 'These are just sort of normal Christians that have a few different ideas -- the government shouldn't be involved in persecuting these people.'"
"And so people like Jefferson and Madison make common cause with these evangelicals, especially Baptists, on the issue of religious liberty. And what that means to them is they want the government to get out of the business of promoting a particular denomination, like the Anglican Church, and to stop policing people's religious beliefs. But they didn't envision a completely secular public sphere," Kidd said.
So, according to Kidd, the wall was to protect denominations, not to boot God out of government.
Kidd believes America could be a much stronger country spiritually if this truth could be recovered by today's courts, schools and governments.
*Originally broadcast on March 4, 2011.