Why 'Separation of Church and State' was Never Intended to Mean 'Government Versus God'
- America's Constitution resides here
in the National Archives.
It's Bill of Rights protectsfreedoms such as speech,
the press, and religion.
It says Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion.
Today's prevailing opinionbelieves that means
government and God can havenothing to do with each other,
thus creating a high wallseparating church and state.
But what did the Founding Fathers
who wrote it actually mean?
- When the founderstalked about separation
of church and state, theyhad a historical context
that we really lack.
- [Paul] Reverend Eddie Hyatt,
author of Pilgrims and Patriots.
- The church and state was merged together
and the church used the power of the state
to enforce its doctrines and practices.
- [Paul] He says certaingovernments used deadly force
against dissenters who wantedto worship in their own way.
- Those people were persecuted,burned at the stake,
some had their tongues cut out.
The founders did not wantthat kind of Christianity.
- And so that's the context they have
as separation of church and state.
It was never the churchtaking over the state
as so as the state taking over the church.
- [Paul] Author Jerry Newcombe,
who wrote The Book That Made America,
says the founders opposed such force.
- They didn't want to havea national established
Church of America like youhave the Church of England
forcing people to believe something
that they didn't believe in.
- [Paul] Thomas Jeffersonwrote to worried pastors
in a famous 1802 letter, assuring them
government wouldn'tinterfere with their faith.
- 'Cause there's a wall of separation
between church and state.
And so the way he used it is, guys,
the government's not gonnastop religious activities.
- Then, almost 150 years later,
more liberal justices and judges
began to interpret that to mean
government had to walloff any touch of faith
on any public institutionor the people in it.
Wiliam Federer, author ofthe daily American Minute.
- And that's when they beganto reinterpret that phrase
to say no, we're gonna get faithand God and everything out.
- [Paul] Such as the1980 Supreme Court ruling
that kicked the Ten Commandmentsout of public schools.
- And they said if the Ten Commandments
were on the schoolroom wall,
the children might readthem, meditate on them,
venerate them, and obey them.
- We gotta make sure that kiddoesn't say God at graduation.
You can't let a kid pray over their lunch.
- [Paul] Hyatt says thefounders would be distressed
by these rulings.
- To ban Bible reading andpray from public schools,
remove crosses and TenCommandment displays
from public places.
- [Paul] Attorney Jeremy Dysfights for religious rights.
- When the government tellsyou what you can believe
and what you cannot believe,
that is a significant loss in our freedom.
- It's ironic that judges willsay, well we have to maintain
separation of church and state.
They're quoting from Jefferson,
and Jefferson, in the Declaration,
said all men are endowed by their creator
with certain inalienable rights.
Here's Jefferson acknowledginghe believed in a creator,
and they're using hisphrase out of context
to prohibit a creator.
- [Paul] In that same letter,
Jefferson showed where he stands.
- At the end of it, Thomas Jefferson says:
Will you please pray to God for me
and I will pray to God for you.
He violates the separationof church and state
in the very letter thatgave us the phrase.
- [Paul] And right after he wrote it?
- President Jefferson left the White House
to go to the UnitedStates Capitol at the time
to do what?
To go to church that Sunday.
- [Paul] In the Capitol?
- [Jeremy] In the UnitedStates Capitol building.
- The US Supreme Court hasmore than 50 depictions
of the Ten Commandmentsin its own building.
- [Jerry] George Washingtonwas sworn in on the Holy Bible.
He said, "So help me God,"
which was the common way of taking oaths.
George Washington even leaned down
and kissed the Holy Bible.
- They did not want a national church,
but they wanted God inall of their proceedings.
- So, you know, if their idea was, well,
there should be no referenceto God in our government,
then the founders absolutelywere schizophrenic.
They absolutely did notmean the separation of God
- As Newcombe put it,
while the founders madereligious freedom a priority,
they certainly did notintend to make America
into some sort of secular wasteland.
Paul Strand, CBN News, reportingfrom the National Archives.