David Barton, author of the book Separation of Church and State, What the Founders Meant told the story of a conversation he once had with a U. S. Representative who was also an accomplished attorney. The Representative indicated during the discussion that he thought basic religious values and teachings were important to public behavior and society in general; then he lamented “We know these values are important; it’s unfortunate that we can’t do anything to promote them.” When asked “Why not?” He replied “We just can’t.” “Because of Separation of Church and State?” When asked what about it, he replied, “It’s in the Constitution – the Constitution won’t permit us to have religious values in public arenas.”
When told the phrase “separation of church and state” was not in the U. S. Constitution, he argued that it was, and said that was what he had been taught in law school. However, he admitted he had not read the U. S. Constitution himself, even though when he was sworn in as a U. S. Congressman, he had sworn to support and defend that Constitution.
The First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution reads as follows: “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.”
So the part regarding religion is the first part, which merely reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of Religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Many people argue that even though the words “Separation of Church and State” are not there, isn’t that what the writers of it actually meant?” The answer is “no,” that was not their intent. The evidence proving this is the writings of the Founders and the Congressional Record.
The Founders repeatedly explained that they were seeking to prevent what they had experienced under the rule of Great Britain: the legal establishment by the national government of a single religious denomination in exclusion of all other denominations.
In the original wording proposed by James Madison, the reading was: “nor shall any national religion be established.” Also, in the discussions by the Founders, the words Religion and denomination were used interchangeably.
No court has the authority to rewrite or to “interpret” any part of the Constitution. The First Amendment clearly states Congress cannot establish a particular religion as the national religion, and it is also prohibited from not allowing the free exercise of religion. Many court decisions have violated both.
I wonder how many U. S. Representatives, U. S. Senators, and U. S. Judges have actually read and studied the U. S. Constitution that they took an oath of office to support. Many of them may be like the U. S. Representative who was a lawyer. He was just going by what someone had told him,but had not read the U. S. Constitution himself.
This reminds me of the situation that happened when I was working for the Federal government, where I worked for 34 years. A law was passed by both the U. S. House of Representatives and the U. S. Senate, and was signed by the President and became law. Then they found out that the law was not worded like they intended it to read. So many of the U. S. Congressmen said the exact same thing: “I don’t have time to read these bills I vote on, I just have to depend upon my aids to tell me what is in them.” This is scary.
If anyone wants to read further about the issue of Separation of Church and State, they should read the small, 25-page book, “Separation of Church and State, What the Founders Meant” by David Barton, available from Wallbuilders, P.O. Box 397, Aledo, TX 76008. My copy was given to me by Illinois State Representative Darren Bailey, who represents the Norris City area, and I thank him for giving it to me.
If anyone has any comments, information or pictures to share with the readers of these articles, please contact me at Edward Oliver, P O Box 456, Norris City, IL 62869 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.