Over the past 60 years or so it has become popular to quote a letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut that had the phrase “separation of church and state” as though it is a direct quote from the Constitution. During this time when we celebrate the birth of our Lord, I think it is appropriate to discuss this misconception and how it relates to the First Amendment.
One of the primary reasons for immigration to North America by Europeans was for the opportunity to worship as they pleased. At that time in world history, most countries dictated what religion was practiced and there was little, if any, room for deviation from that religion.
When the founders wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, they understood that some religions could be “highly encouraging” in their proselytizing and wanted to prevent that from happening. Therefore, the First Amendment was written in such a way to tell not only the currently sitting Congress but all successive Congresses that they could not establish a national religion. The first section reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….” There is no mention of separating religion and the state.
Over the years Jefferson’s unfortunate comment has taken on a life of its own. At first, public prayer was banned at all public events. From there the prohibitions expanded. When verbal school prayer was prohibited administrators were allowed to have a silent prayer. Today even that has gone away. Every year we hear about more nativity scenes being disallowed from public parks and buildings. Yesterday, even a bank examiner told a bank they had to remove a cross from public viewing.
More and more retail establishments are removing Christmas from their stores. Store clerks are afraid to say “Merry Christmas” either at the direction of store managers or because they do not want to offend someone. Some atheists view anything Christian as a vile insult. I take deep offense to this abrogation of my right to worship as I please. However, George Washington said it best; “The liberty enjoyed by the people of these states of worshiping Almighty God agreeably to their conscience, is not only among the choicest of their blessings, but also of their rights.”
Contrary to the view of “Progressive” pundits, our country was established on Christian principles. Almost all of our founding fathers were deeply religious men and many were ordained ministers. The First Amendment guarantees our right to worship as we please, or not worship. It is not my right to force someone to worship in any way, and it is not someone else’s right to keep me from worshiping. Having a nativity scene in a public park is not the establishment of religion; it is the conscious acknowledgement of the founding principles of our wonderful country.
I will end this Discourse by saying that I hope all my readers have a very blessed Christmas for the reason we celebrate is truly a blessing to mankind.