Separation of Church and State

From BibleStrength
It has become a fad in recent decades for liberals to claim a definition of separation of church and state that is contrary to American history; that 'freedom of religion' should mean 'freedom from religion.' America was founded by an on-fire-for-God Quaker named William Penn in 1682 and it was there that Penn designed a bill of rights (then called 'Charter of Privileges') granting the freedom of religion which became today's First Amendment. Penn's theocratic system of government was the clear foundation of the later United States and was based firmly upon the Bible.

When Thomas Jefferson and James Madison later fought for 'separation of church and state' they did so to defend the Danbury Baptists from religious persecution; indeed it is in Jefferson's letters to them that the phrase 'separation of church and state' originates as it is nowhere to be found in the U.S. Constitution. Jefferson and Madison both based their respective legislation on religious freedom on the belief that a Creator gives rights to man, and said so in their own legislation.

Furthermore, early state constitutions and charters lay to rest any doubt that the U.S. began a Christian nation. Not only do all 50 state constitutions reference God's authority[1], but the early 13 colonies all show clear evidence of Christian origins as well, and at least 8 of them even prohibited non-Christians from running for public office in their 1770s state constitutions.

America's Beginnings, Penn's Province of Pennsylvania

Main Articles: William Penn and Province of Pennsylvania

William Penn, the son of England's famous admiral Sir William Penn, was imprisoned six times for his Christian beliefs, including in the Tower of London, and his eloquence in court ultimately led to English trial by jury.[2] Penn's Quakers sought refuge in the New World, and in large part because of his father's influence King Charles II gave Penn a generous charter making him the world's largest independent landowner subject only to the King of England.[3]

Model for the U.S. Constitution

William Penn in 1682 designed what would become the United States of America, a representative democracy with free and voluntary elections for all citizens, a bill of rights (then called 'charter of privileges') that granted freedoms of religion, property, and trial by jury, and Gaseparation of powers between the executive, judicial, and legislative branches, with Penn himself as the nation's first Governor. Penn created a public education system and a legislature that required 2/3 approval in both houses for bill passage.[4]

The General Assembly, similar to today's House of Representatives, had 200-500 members and was designed to increase with population, while the Provincial Council had 72 members similar to today's U.S. Senate and was subdivided into 18-member subcommittees. The government had term limits for elected officials and all laws, including marriage, were based on the Bible with things like homosexuality, prostitution, drinking, gambling, obscenity, and cruelty to animals all outlawed. Thomas Jefferson, who later authored the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, called Penn "the greatest law giver the world has produced."[3]

Peaceful Fair Relations with Native Americans

Unlike other colonies, Penn insisted on fairly purchasing the land from the natives, despite the grant from King Charles II which meant he didn't have to by English law, and maintained peaceful relationships with them.[5] He insisted on learning their dialects so he wouldn't need a translator and walked among them unarmed. Voltaire called Penn's treaty at Shackamaxon with the Native Americans "the only treaty between those people [Indians and Christians] that was not ratified by an oath, and that was never infringed."[2] The native tribes respected Penn so much that when the Seven Years War broke out between the settlers and Native Americans (1755-62), Penn's colony was left alone.[5]

U.S. Christian Beginnings

Articles of Confederation Referenced God

When the United States defeated England in the Revolutionary War, the original framework created to govern the colonies was called the "Articles of Confederation." Signed on March 1, 1781, it termed the new confederacy "The United States of America." Unlike the later Constitution which replaced it on March 4, 1789, the Articles of Confederation did reference God's authority.

Founding Fathers Were Christians


Contrary to popular claims that the founding fathers were Deists, they were primarily Protestant, and 54.7% were Anglicans specifically. 18.6% were Presbyterians, 16.8% were Congregationalists, 4.3% were Quakers, 3.7% were Dutch/German Reformed, 3.1% were Lutherans, 1.9% were Catholics, 1.9% were Huguenots, 1.9% were Unitarians, 1.2% were Methodists, and 0.6% were Calvinists. Founding fathers are defined as the 204 individuals who either signed the Declaration of Independence, signed the Articles of Confederation, signed the Constitutional Convention of 1787, signed the U.S. Constitution, or served as U.S. Representatives/Senators in the First Federal Congress.[7]

Congress Always Opened in Prayer, Swore in on Bible

Congress has always opened with prayer[8] and sworn in public officials on the Bible. No honest historian should be able to examine the evidence and conclude the U.S. was not a Christian nation originally.

State Charters and Constitutions

Main Article: United States Charters and Constitutions

Early State Constitutions Required Christian Politicians

Furthermore, an examination of America's earliest charters and state constitutions reveals a deeply Christian nation that went so far as to restrict public office solely to Christians. It makes no sense for liberals to argue that America did not begin a Christian nation when so many states expressly forbid non-Christians from running for public office.

All State Constitutions Reference God

All 50 state constitutions reference God. America's beginnings were steeped in acknowledgement of God as the necessary guide for our nation.[18] To give just a few examples from some of the more liberal states:

Universities Began As Christian Seminaries

Many major universities, not only in the United States but worldwide, actually began as Christian seminaries for the instruction of pastors.[26] Contrary to the claim by secularists that Christianity and Creationism are contrary to science and learning, it was originally Christian Creationists who started modern education to begin with.

U.S. Universities

  • Harvard University, Massachusetts: Founded in 1636, it is named after John Harvard, an English preacher who dedicated to the university half of his library and estate. Its original rules included:
  • Yale University, Connecticut
  • Southern Illinois University, Illinois
  • Princeton University, New Jersey
  • Florida State University[28]
  • Louisiana State University[29]

Outside the U.S.

  • University of Oxford, United Kingdom
  • University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of St. Andrews

A Christian Nation

The First Great Awakening

The Second Great Awakening

Separation of Church and State Intended to Protect Christianity

The campaign for separation of church and state by Jefferson and Madison began not to limit expression in God, but rather to protect it.

The Danbury Baptists

Main Article: Danbury Baptists

As observed by Christine L. Heyrman of the National Humanities Center, it began when James Madison learned of Baptists jailed for their faith. Together, he and another Virginian, Thomas Jefferson, joined forces to stop the religious persecution against the Danbury Baptists.[30]

It was in his letter to the Baptists that Jefferson's famous phrase "wall of separation," later termed "separation of church and state," first originated, as nowhere is it found in the U.S. Constitution. Jefferson, President of the United States, did all he could to protect their freedom to worship the Creator just as he had done throughout his political career. Parts of the letters between both are as follows, for the full text see Danbury Baptists.

Thomas Jefferson

Main Article: Thomas Jefferson

Declaration of Independence

Main Article: Declaration of Independence

Jefferson's ideas were well-formed by the time he authored the Declaration of Independence. Recognizing that inalienable rights could only be given by a Creator, Jefferson, a founding member of the Bible Society of Virginia,[31] declared this the basis for human intrinsic worth, and the devaluing of those rights the reason the colonies would secede from England.[32]

Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom

Main Article: Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom

While most are familiar only with Jefferson's writing on religious freedom from the Declaration of Independence and First Amendment, he actually authored a much clearer explanation of what religious freedom and separation of church and state should entail. In 1777 Jefferson authored what would be one of his proudest achievements, one of only three he wanted mentioned on his epitaph,[33] the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.[34] In it, Jefferson once again asserted religious freedom is given by a Creator, and as such should not be inhibited by fellow mortals.

Jefferson in the legislation specifically outlawed the following:

  • Judicial opinions restricting the faith of others because of supposition of ill tendency. (¶2, 9)
  • Taxpayer funding of opinions one doesn't believe in. (¶3)
  • Taxpayer funding of religious teachers one doesn't support. (¶4)
  • Requiring a certain religious opinion to run for public office. (¶6-7, 12)
  • Forcing people to attend religious worships, places, and ministries they don't want to attend. (¶12)
  • Causing people to suffer in any way because of their religious opinions. (¶12)

James Madison

Main Article: James Madison

Memorial and Remonstrance

Main Article: Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments

In 1785, James Madison like Jefferson before him, authored his own Virginia legislation pertaining to religious freedom and separation of church and state, the Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments. The bill was designed to criticize another bill that would have instituted a statewide tax to support Christian clergymen of various denominations.[35] Madison's 1st reason for arguing against the bill began, "Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, "that religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence" and continued in point 12 with "because the policy of the Bill is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity."[36]

Madison, like his friend Jefferson, argued constantly from the standpoint of a Creator giving rights to man, but took it even one step further, arguing that a Christian government necessitates religious freedom.


Treaty of Tripoli

The one argument liberals consistently bring up involves the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli and its claim in Article 11 that the U.S. is not a Christian nation. However:

  1. The controversial Article 11 was not authored in English but in Arabic and the phrase appears only from an Arabic-to-English translation by Joel Barlow.
  2. Whether the translation by Barlow was correct remains disputed, and in 1931 Hunter Miller as part of a commission by the U.S. government examining treaties concluded that it was erroneous in nature.
  3. The wording may not have been authored by U.S. officials at all but by Arabic ones. The lesser-known Treaty with Tunis in 1797, originally authored in Turkish, included language that would be used by Arabs but not Americans, suggesting that the document was originally authored by a Muslim country, sent to the United States, and agreed upon only after its translation was explained by a 3rd party (like Barlow).[37]

As a side note, the Treaty of Tripoli lasted less than 5 years before the Pasha of Tripoli broke it and declared war on the U.S. The treaty, signed to create a cease-fire and stop the pirating of U.S. ships by Tripoli, was violated within just a few years, and followed quickly by the Barbary Wars. Ironically, the U.S. had problems with Muslim terrorists back in the 18th century, and its first major war after the Revolutionary War was with Islamic countries who attacked U.S. ships so they could hold the sailors for ransom.

Thomas Paine's Deism

The argument made by those in academia, as echoed by David Holmes of Encyclopædia Britannica, is that while the founding fathers were openly Christian, they secretly held Deist inclinations sympathetic to the views of Thomas Paine. It is undeniable that they were outwardly Christian, which is why Holmes concedes "On the surface, most Founders appear to have been orthodox (or 'right-believing') Christians. Most were baptized, listed on church rolls, married to practicing Christians, and frequent or at least sporadic attenders of services of Christian worship. In public statements, most invoked divine assistance."[38]

The Unpopularity of Paine

However, the effort by Holmes and other academics to link the founders to the so-called Deism of the atheistic Thomas Paine is ridiculous in light of how unpopular Paine was. Paine's atheistic assault on Christianity made him so universally abhorred in America that only six people attended his funeral, in contrast with Benjamin Franklin's which had 20,000 mourners.[39] To quote Time Magazine's Christopher Shay, "Paine... died a penniless drunk in Manhattan" and a popular nursery rhyme at the time of his death went, "Poor Tom Paine! There he lies: Nobody laughs and nobody cries. Where he has gone or how he fares, Nobody knows and nobody cares."[40]

As if Paine's impoverished, drunken death and ignominious funeral weren't enough, not even his remains were allowed to rest in peace. One of Paine's rare supporters at the time, a journalist by the name of William Cobbett, exhumed Paine's remains and shipped them to England while attempting to raise money for a proper burial. When no such funds materialized, Paine's decrepit corpse languished in an attic for a decade before mysteriously disappearing. To quote Shay once more, "Legend has it that his bones were turned into buttons, though in the 1930s, one woman in Brighton claimed to have his jawbone."[40]

The Founders and Paine

So could the founders have secretly sympathized with Paine's atheistic criticisms of Christianity? Despite Holmes' characterization of Paine as a "protégé of Benjamin Franklin," Ben was anything but supportive of Paine's anti-Christian writing "The Age of Reason," urging Paine in personal correspondence to burn the atrocious work. In the words of Franklin to Paine, "If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it."[41]

And George Washington? Paine viciously slandered Washington in later years.[42] John Adams vigorously denounced Thomas Paine after publication of "The Age of Reason." As pointed out by The New Yorker's Jill Lepore, "By the time Paine died, in 1809, all the surviving Founders had renounced him. (Jefferson even refused to allow his correspondence with Paine to be printed. 'No, my dear sir, not for this world,' he told an inquirer. 'Into what a hornet’s nest would it thrust my head!')"[39]

Though Paine was certainly influential, he was hardly typical, and for liberals to suggest the founders in general were Deistic like he was, and to mention his name in the same breath as Benjamin Franklin (who suggested he burn his Deistic book) and Thomas Jefferson (who helped found the Virginia Bible Society) is dishonest.

Paine More European Than American

Thomas Paine's vicious, anti-Christian rhetoric made an immensely unpopular anomaly among the founding fathers, as did the fact that he spent most of his life not in America, but in Europe. Paine spent the first 37.5 years of his life in England. Spending just 13 years in the U.S. (including a half year trip to France in 1781), he returned to England in 1787 and spent another 5 years there before fleeing to France. Paine stayed in France for 10 years, not always by choice, since he was initially imprisoned. The last 10 years of Paine's life were spent in the U.S.[43] Thus about 54 of Paine's 72 years (75%) were spent in Europe, not the U.S.


Separation of church and state, as it was originally designed, was meant to stop religious institutions like the Catholic and Anglican Churches from being upheld by governments so that any Christian minorities like Baptists would not be wrongly imprisoned, forced to pay taxes to support religions they didn't believe in, and kept from running for public office because of their beliefs. This was happening at the time in cases like the Danbury Baptists, they were being imprisoned in Connecticut just because they were a religious minority. Jefferson and Madison advocated against state-run churches, whether in Europe or the U.S., because it was a threat to the protestant Christian denominations that had fled such regimes for religious freedom in the U.S.

Separation of church and state was never intended to inhibit religious freedom; but rather to safeguard it! Rather than the ridiculous notion that God's name should be kept out of government, the very founders who designed religious freedom did so on the basis that God gives such freedom to man, and therefore man has no right to remove it! They did so frequently invoking a Creator who gives rights to man. Even from its earliest beginnings in America with William Penn, it began as a purely Christian ideal and later founders like Jefferson and Madison recognized this. They thus imitated Penn's strongly Christian sentiments when arguing for religious freedom. Religious freedom, rather than being designed to keep God out of politics, was designed to protect and preserve the right of all to express that belief in Him as they choose.


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