Christianity, Politics

What’s the True Meaning of “Separation of Church and State”?

by Samuel Brooks

Does the phrase “separation of church and state” show up in the U.S. Constitution or any other U.S. document? What does the phrase mean specifically?

The First Amendment of the Constitution specifically states “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” [U.S. Constitution]. Contrary to popular belief, the phrase “separation of church and state” doesn’t show up anywhere in the U.S. Constitution or in any other U.S. document! So where does the phrase show up? Thomas Jefferson wrote the phrase “wall of separation between the church and the state” in a letter to a Baptist church in Danbury, Connecticut in January 1802. Jefferson used this metaphor to assure the Baptist church that the government would not interfere with the church’s business; however, he did not mean it as a way to keep the church out of the government’s business [Church and State]. You can also read more here.

My father spent the first 7 years of his life living in Mississippi before moving to Detroit. He told me that at the start of each day at school, the teacher would start by reading a story from the Bible…and this was in a PUBLIC school! So what’s changed? Growing up attending public school, I was taught that the phrase “separation of church and state” was in the Constitution and that religion needed to be separate from politics…among others. Over the years, the phrase has been used to manipulate, take out of context and try to remove God as well as any Judeo-Christian values from our society; including phrases such as “In God We Trust” from our currency and “One nation under God” from our Pledge of Allegiance for example [Democrat and Christian]. Now how the phrase is properly applied, for example, is Obamacare requiring religious institutions and businesses to provide abortifacients to its employees when it violates their beliefs, and the Supreme Court forcing individuals and organizations to provide their services for homosexual marriage ceremonies, etc when it violates their beliefs as well. It’s been argued – and I can agree – that the Bible “is the ONLY documented ancient history account available to mankind on much of that long 4,000 year period B.C. The Bible is not only “appropriate,” but necessary for students to have a complete historical picture of mankind. Through much misinformation given to our schools from sincere but often misguided anti-religious organizations, children have been denied the “right-to-learn”, “right-to-know”, and “right-to-be” all they could become. This unchecked censorship of legitimate knowledge has now become a national issue…” [Bible in Public School]. Growing up and attending public school, particularly when it came to biology, not once was the creationist and intelligent design account presented with the evolution belief! If evolution is what’s being taught, the schools should also present the creationist and intelligent design account with it so students are hearing both sides.

There are many strong arguments for having prayer in public school (or any school in general)! According to AllAboutHistory.org, some of the arguments are:

  • Prayer in school is constitutional and supports the principle of freedom of religion on which the U.S. was founded.
    • “A simple and voluntary school prayer doesn’t mean that the government is establishing a religion, any more than employment of chaplains, recognition of holidays (i.e. Christmas) and National Days of Prayer” for example.
  • Prayer in school acknowledges our religious heritage.
    • “Our country was founded by people who believed in freedom to practice one’s religion openly…”
  • Prayer in school offers many societal benefits.
    • These include leading to a “decreased reliance on drugs, alcohol, sex, and dangerous amusements as well as decreased suicides” [Arguments for Prayer in School].

According to an article by the Christian Post, some of the major benefits to having the Bible in schools, public and private, include “helping students have a better understanding of western literature, aiding in helping them understand faith-based arguments and ideas, and helps with moral development” [Bibles and Public Schools]. Even with all of the strong benefits to offering prayer and the Bible in schools, why is it so difficult to accept the facts? The governor of Kentucky recently signed a bill into law that “allows public schools to teach Bible courses” as an elective [Bible Class in Kentucky]. With Kentucky public schools now offering courses on the Bible as an elective, what State is next to follow? Michigan? Texas? Virginia?

​I’m sure that I could add more information to this post but I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you’d like to research more into this area. Personally, with all of the benefits, I strongly believe that both prayer and the Bible (as an elective course) needs to be reintroduced in the secular school system (public and private)! Along with that, I believe that schools – elementary through high school – should start the day with the Pledge of Allegiance but that’s another topic to discuss.

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